SACRAMENTO (AP) — The state Senate voted Monday to ban the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats, a practice the bill's author compared with shooting animals in a zoo.
State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, introduced the legislation after a California fish and game commissioner posed for photos with a mountain lion he killed during a legal hound hunt in Idaho.
Before the vote, Lieu described the practice in which packs of dogs chase the animals until they are exhausted and climb trees, holding them until the hunter arrives.
"It's been likened to shooting a bear at a zoo," Lieu said. "It's simply not fair."
He also noted that dogs are sometimes injured or killed and called the practice inhumane and unsportsmanlike.
The Senate passed SB1221 with a 22-15 vote and sent the bill to the Assembly, despite objections by Republican lawmakers.
Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, said hunting is in danger of following logging and gold mining to the list of endangered activities in the state.
"It is an attack on rural California," he said of the legislation.
Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, said he saw no difference between using dogs to hunt bears and hunters' use of dogs to point out and flush pheasant. He also argued that California needs the $400,000 generated annually by hunting fees as it struggles with a massive budget deficit.
The use of hounds to tree bears is a practice dating back hundreds of years across the U.S. and Europe.
Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Willows, said shooting treed bears is more humane because a clean shot results in fewer wounded bears that can then escape.
Lieu said two-thirds of states already ban the use of hounds to hunt bears.
Between 1,500 and 1,800 bears are killed by hunters each year in California, with less than half tracked with dogs, according to state wildlife officials. The state has a black bear population estimated at about 30,000, up from about 10,000 in the 1980s.
California has an estimated 70,000 bobcats. It issued about 4,500 tags to hunt bobcats last year. About 11 percent of the bobcats were killed with the use of dogs.