The California Senate approved today legislation that would ban the use of hounds or other dogs to hunt bears and bobcats.
Senate Bill 1221, by Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu, would make California the 15th state to ban the practice, which critics contend is cruel both for the targeted animals and the dogs involved, which can get injured or killed.
Lieu said dispatching dogs to chase a bear into a tree where the hunter can get a clear shot of the animal "violates the principals of fair chase."
"It's been likened to shooting a bear in the zoo," Lieu said.
About 45 percent of the bears and 11 percent of the bobcats killed in California last year were hunted using dogs, according to a Senate analysis of the bill.
The bill is opposed by a coalition of hunting organizations, including the California Sportsman's Lobby and the Outdoor Sportsmen's Coalition of California. They say hunting with hounds is part of a longstanding tradition of the sport that helps manage the state's bear population.
"I believe this bill is a direct attack on all forms of hunting that relies on dogs," said Republican Sen. Tom Berryhill, who opposed the bill.
The bill, sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States, emerged after Fish and Game Commission President Dan Richards caught flak from critics and faced calls to resign over a photo showing him posing with a mountain lion he killed during a hunting trip in Idaho. Killing mountain lions has been illegal in California for decades.
The bill narrowly cleared the upper house, 22-15, with several Democrats voting no. It now heads for the Assembly for consideration.