A captured black bear is tethered to a stake, surrounded by hundreds of onlookers. Her captors have mutilated her by cutting or removing her claws and many of her teeth. She is timid, terrified, and defenseless. Three hounds run at the bear from one end of the arena, barking furiously. Some of them bite and tear at her sensitive nose and ears. Others jump on her. She backs up on her hind legs, trying vainly to shield her face. The assault continues for four hours, as nearly 300 dogs attack her in quick succession. Hundreds of paying spectators cheer as the bear is brutalized. This spectacle is a bear baiting competition, called a "bear bay" by participants, and it’s illegal everywhere on earth except for South Carolina. Most people have never seen these underground events, because organizers try to keep the practice away from the public eye. They know that if most people saw the terrified, tethered bear cornered by dogs for hours on end, they would demand an end to this abuse.
The supposed objective of South Carolina bear baiting contests is for the dogs to corner the bear, make eye contact, and keep her "at bay." These events are billed as training events for hunting dogs, but the cheering crowds make it clear that they are also cruel spectacles for those who enjoy watching chained animals being brutalized. Black bears are favored for baiting because of their shy nature and instinct to flee, rather than attack, when threatened.
According to the HSUS, “There are currently 26 captive black bears in South Carolina, many likely used for bear baiting.” The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has issued permits for their possession, but has turned a blind eye to the cruelty they endure and does not inspect bear baiting competitions. It's impossible to know exactly how many bears are being used for this barbaric practice, or how many events take place, because of the state's lack of oversight.
The South Carolina DNR has issued a statement on bear baiting, claiming that they “do not consider bear baying/baiting a legitimate field trial and has never issued and will not issue permits for this activity. The possession of black bears by individuals is not biologically sound, safe for the local community, or in the best long-term interest of the wild black bear resource.” The South Carolina Attorney General also issued an opinion in 2008 that it is possible for bear baiting to be prosecuted as animal cruelty. Despite these statements, absolutely nothing has been done to protect these animals and outlaw bear baiting. It is absolutely necessary that South Carolina immediately join the rest of the world in outlawing this barbaric and disgusting practice.
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