Every voice matters when it comes to influencing legislation. On April 13, we watched a perfect example as the calendar deadline hit 5 p.m. in the House Rules committee. A bill allowing sport hunters to hunt cougars with hounds was stalled in its tracks. PAWS, along with other concerned organizations and citizens, voiced opposition for this bill and legislators listened.
SB 5356, and its companion bill HB 1124, were introduced this session by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) requesting full authority to use hounds statewide to sport hunt cougars. While WDFW currently has the statewide authority to use hounds to remove cougars that threaten public safety, they currently do not have authority to extend the practice to recreational hunting.
HB 1124 died. But the senate version moved through the legislature, aided by an amendment that forfeited WDFW’s request for statewide authority to sport hunt with hounds, in exchange for a 5-year extension of their pilot program which uses hounds to hunt cougars in designated counties (Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend d’Oreille). This hound hunting pilot program was introduced in 2004 and has repeatedly been granted extensions ever since.
The impact of defeating SSB 5356 remains to be seen for cougar populations in Washington. For today the wishes of the majority of Washington State citizens have been upheld.