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Gun responsibility vs. pet responsibility

December 8, 2008

by Stephen Wiblemo

As a news junky, I like to keep up with news from all over the world, including my hometown of Marshall, located in the southwest corner of Minnesota.

I occasionally visit the web site of my former local paper, The Independent, and recently I came across an interesting discussion that I thought members of this community would like to hear – and I would be interested to know your responses to these letters.

The discussion started with a letter to the editor written by an angry and saddened women whose family dog, Copper, was shot and killed by what she believes was an irresponsible, and illegal hunter.

This women is a veterinarian who lives on a farm, and in the letter she explains that Copper was on his way home after his daily routine of following her car out of the driveway on her way to work. Unfortunately, on his way back, Copper was shot by a 12 G slug from about 20 yards away, according to the women.

Vehicle tracks and an empty shell in the fresh snow of the gravel road led her to the conclusion that somebody pulled up on the side of the road to shoot Copper from the car, and then drove off.

She concludes her letter with this statement, which is where much of the debate was born:
“Hunters, trappers, and outdoorsmen, you should be outraged . . . Copper was shot from a gravel road; the gunman never left his vehicle. He dumped the spent shell on the road. This is illegal, unethical, and sick . . . They took our given right
to hunt/trap and abused it . . .“

Following this letter, several online responses were received. Some of them offered condolences to the family, and outrage towards the people that committed the act. Others, however, turned the blame on the owners of the pet, saying they were irresponsible for letting their dog run loose on their own property.

A couple days later, another letter to the editor was submitted by a sportsman who shared this mentality that the owners of the pet were to blame.

In his letter, he says he is saddened by the loss of the pet, but places the blame on the owners. He explains his reasoning by citing DNR rulings that he claims classify the dog as a “predator,” and therefore makes the shooting of it legal.

Here is a quote from this letter:
“Any pet running freely and not within the proximity of the home or home building site can be and is termed a ‘predator’ . . . Coyote, skunks, and other animals fall into this category as well, and to protect the gaming wildlife for sportsman, these predators have little or no hunting restrictions, and, when come across by a hunting sportsman, can be hunted to eliminate the predator threat. Domestic pets can and do hunt and kill other wildlife.”

This letter ignited several more online responses, some agreeing with it and others detesting it.

So, here is why I am bringing this debate up.

I know that there is a large community of sportsmen in our area, and the question of where legal hunting and ethical hunting intersect is an important one.

I want to make it very clear that this column is not an indictment against all hunters.

I am not a hunter, but I have several family members and friends who are, and I respect the right of responsible people to hunt and trap legally. I also believe that a majority of sportsmen are responsible people that conduct their activity with great discretion.

But, because I am not a hunter, I have a limited knowledge of DNR rules and other questions regarding ethical hunting that arise in this discussion.

I offer these questions to all in hopes of sparking an intelligent and civilized debate about these issues that I think affect all sportsmen, wherever you are from:

• Is it wrong for the pet owner to ask that all sporstmen be outraged, and express condemnation towards these actions and the people that perpetrated them?

• Is the pet owner and her family to blame for allowing their pets to roam their farmland unrestrained?

• What are the exact rulings by the DNR as far as what is labeled a predator, and what actions can be taken?

• Is it ethical to shoot a dog because it may be technically labeled a predator, and therefore legal to hunt, even if it does not display signs of hostility towards hunters or game?

• Is it the responsibility of all sportsmen to encourage the use of safe, ethical practices when operating a firearm, and condemn those that do not?

I welcome all well-thought responses, which can be left on our online message board or e-mailed to me at swiblemo@heraldjournal.com.

I would also be happy to print any responses e-mailed to me in a follow-up column next week. If you wish to have your response printed, please include your full name, hometown, and a daytime number where you can be reached in the e-mail. Any response without full disclosure of that information will not be printed.