Ever heard of Wisconsin’s Conservation Congress? If not, you’re not alone. But you can make a difference for dogs if you attend a Conservation Congress meeting tonight, April 8, in your county.
The Wisconsin Legislature created the Conservation Congress in 1934, saying, "The conservation congress shall be an independent organization of citizens of the state and shall serve in an advisory capacity to the natural resources board." The "natural resources board" sets policy for the Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, and the Conservation Congress still advises it, often with great influence. The Congress holds regular meetings in each county where anyone can vote on "delegates" to the Congress and give direct input by voting on specific questions.
Dogs in the wolf hunt? Yes, unless something changes.
This spring, one question on the ballot is especially important for me. In 2012, the Wisconsin Legislature created a wolf hunting season, and specifically allowed the use of dogs in wolf hunting. That made Wisconsin the only state to allow dogs in wolf hunting. After a lawsuit by the Wisconsin Humane Society, Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, and others, a judge barred the use of dogs in the 2012 hunt.
The judge’s order ended up proving that no one needs dogs to hunt wolves. The 2012 wolf hunt was supposed to last until February but ended in December because hunters had killed the maximum number of allowed wolves in every "management zone" in the state, even though they weren’t allowed to use dogs.
After the 2012 hunt, though, the judge removed his preliminary order. Unless the DNR or the legislature changes the current rules, dogs will be allowed in the 2013 wolf hunt.
We know from sad experience that confrontations between wolves and dogs end horribly, for dogs and often for wolves, too. Wolves can’t climb trees like bears, or fly away like game birds. What they can do is tear a hunting dog apart with their teeth. It has happened far too often already when dogs hunting other game have encountered wolves in the woods. It will absolutely happen to many more dogs if we intentionally seek these encounters.
Reasonable animal lovers can respectfully disagree about whether wolf hunting should be allowed at all in Wisconsin. But mainstream animal lovers, hunters and non-hunters, widely agree that using dogs to hunt wolves is barbaric, unnecessary, and extreme.
How to be heard
You can help; your voice can be heard. You can attend the Conservation Congress’s "spring hearing" in your county and express your view about dogs in wolf hunting. You don’t have to speak publicly; you just attend the hearing and register. You’ll get a long ballot with dozens of questions, mostly about hunting issues. You don’t need to vote on all of the issues.
The key question is a bit convoluted: it’s question 68, "Would you favor legislation to prohibit the use of dogs to hunt and training dogs to hunt wolves?" My answer is yes, I favor legislation to prohibit using dogs in wolf hunting. I hope yours is too.
Conservation Congress hearings will be held in each Wisconsin county tonight, April 8, at 7:00 p.m., including the following locations in
Milwaukee: Nathan Hale High School, Auditorium, 11601 W. Lincoln Ave., West Allis, WI 53227
Webster Middle School, Commons, W75 N624 Wauwatosa Rd., Cedarburg, WI 53012
Union Grove High School, 3433 S. Colony Ave., Union Grove, WI 53182
There is more information on the DNR’s website here about the Conservation Congress.
Anne Reed became the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Humane Society in January of 2010. Before joining WHS, Anne spent almost three decades as a corporate litigator at the Milwaukee law firm of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC.
At the Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS), Anne stepped into the leadership of Wisconsin's oldest, largest and most recognized animal welfare organization. For more than 130 years, WHS has been saving the lives of animals in need, and carrying out its mission to build a community where people value animals and treat them with respect and kindness. WHS helped to pioneer the idea that every animal available for adoption in a shelter could be free of time limits, taking as long as needed to be adopted. WHS operates shelters in Milwaukee, Saukville and Racine.
Anne serves on the board of directors of the National Federation of Humane Societies (NFHS), Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, and Shelter Animals Count, a national database initiative. She also chairs NFHS's 2020 Vision Initiative. Anne also served as president of Meta House's board of directors from 2005 to 2007 and served on the board from 2001 to 2010. As a lawyer, she was named one of the Wisconsin Law Journal's "Women In The Law;" was named to the list of "Wisconsin Superlawyers," and authored a law blog which was twice named one of the 100 best in the country by the American Bar Association's ABA Journal.