Each year, an immeasurable number of hunting dogs are found in emaciated, malnourished or even abusive conditions due to neglect and abandonment by their owners. These dogs, primarily hounds, have increasingly become a burden on animal shelters and have cast a negative light on hunting with dogs, particularly in Virginia. The difficulty in identifying the owners of these dogs has stymied law enforcement and animal welfare authorities for years. Mandatory microchipping, now compulsory in England, may be the key to protecting talented working dogs from neglect, cruelty and abandonment by uncaring owners. These microchips can allow abandoned animals to lead the law to the doorstep of those responsible for their care.

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Introduction Hailed as an Old Dominion tradition reaching back to the English roots of the Virginia Colony, hunting with dogs seems to be as popular today as it was when George Washington participated in the 18th Century. Rabbit, fox, racoon and pheasant, to name a few, are easiest to catch or kill with the assistance of man’s best friend and her magnificent nose, and over the years deer hunting with dogs climbed to the top of the popularity list for canine sportsmen. While many lament the fate of the quarry, there exists a victim nearer to the hunter than even the deer: his dogs. Mistreatment of these working animals has been widely reported in the media (Telvock, 2013), but rarely studied in academic circles. What can be done to improve the lot of the Virginia hunting hound without squeezing the rights of the humane hunters which traditionally reach all the way back to England? Ironically, England may hold the key. Last year, a law went into effect spanning the entire United Kingdom which requires the mandatory use of microchip implants in an effort to stem an epidemic of stray dogs across the British Isles (Holmes, 2013, p. 364). This legislation could be an effective way to hold hunters accountable for the welfare of their packs and lead authorities to the people who ultimately failed in their responsibility for their working animals. Background Not at issue here are the larger concerns of the perceived cruelty of hunting or the mistreatment of animals across a broader spectrum (animal testing, dogfighting, puppy mills, etc.). This research is focused on the neglect, abandonment and abuse of hunting dogs as a matter of course and even personal policy. This specific issue mostly goes without notice except in local circles or following particularly heinous incidents surrounded by publicity, but it promises to emerge dynamically into the public consciousness if left unchecked. Hunting with hounds is a sport encompassing its own culture and which has a history spanning centuries. It was crafted into a skilled sport in England and France during the Renaissance, with particular focus on fox hunting from horseback. But in 2004, the hunting of all mammals with dogs was banned in England, amid uproarious protest from hunters (Hunting Act of 2004). Fearing the same sort of response from American legislators, Virginia hound hunters are now more protective of their hunting rights than ever. According to a 2016 Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries report, 29% of deer hunters in Virginia hunt deer using dogs (VGIF, 2016, p. 2). Any criticism of dog hunting is considered a serious threat by this demographic and it is met with scathing contempt for “city-dwellers” and “tree-huggers.” Finding a creditable hunter willing to go on record to discuss the neglect of these hounds is difficult under such circumstances.

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