More Criticism of Salida Fox Hunting

FROM: Mary Hay

To Salida:

****The local fox hunt club’s purpose is to chase foxes, coyotes, rabbits, etc. to their death by Headwaters Hounds kenneled outside of town. ** Salida has become a popular area to visit and move to bringing folks from all over with new ideas, plans and contributions that are progressive and welcome; this new activity is not.**

Salida and Chaffee County is small area of national forest, ranches, a fantastic river and breathtaking mountain peaks. There are four seasons of outdoor recreational opportunities and an amazing art district. Do we really need a club that chases wildlife, our wildlife as tax paying residents, to the death and then lets hounds mutilate them and their young? Fox hunting and “cubbing” - the separating of a mother from her young and then urging the dogs to tear apart the baby animals - has been banned in Great Britain. Why then does it have to be brought here to this community? But if you can’t do it in Monument, then why not try it here!

Is this how we want Salida to be recognized? Do we not have better things to offer the tourists, visitors, our children and ourselves? What is the economic value of people getting to exercise their horses in such an abhorrent way? Equally, teaching horseback riding does not require the cruelly killing of wildlife.

It was disturbing to see the Headwaters Hounds being advertised and paraded at the County Fairgrounds last summer. Did the spectators realize what these dogs are trained to do and what cubbing is? This was also in contrast to the hard work of our 4-H youth learning to care for and display their animals. But then----

It was even more offensive to see Headwaters Hounds appearance in our Salida Christmas parade with red hunting (not Christmas red) attire and multiple puppies. Is this cruel business truly representative of our Salida scene and the spirit of the holiday? Did the children lining the parade route understand that these puppies will live a boring life in caged pens and be trained to brutally kill other babies, many of their same species?

Some 20-30 dogs live in small kennels and sheds. They have nothing to do except defecate on the neighborhood road, howl and bark 24/7. According to neighbors, if they bark too much they are doused with water and vinegar from a spray hose which can burn eyes and nose. They are bored and lonely; two have fought each other to the death. The mutilation is what gives them the incentive to hunt. Without being rewarded with the bloodied and torn bodies, the hounds have no interest except for their freedom and a run.

What will happen when all the local wildlife in the hunt area (on whose land will this occur?) has been killed? Will they hire trappers to bring in more animals from other counties and forest? Where will it all end?

We have local organizations and school classrooms whose mission is to teach children (and adults!) about wildlife conservation and habitat preservation in our local environment. This is “ruthless exploitation” of our wildlife and domestic pets. We are suppose to be stewards of our public lands (and private for that matter) and the inhabitants thereon. It is a more honorable goal to show folks the wonderment of wildlife and nature, than it is to promote the unnecessary, barbarous and merciless killing of animals simply for personal enjoyment. Predation is natural and make no mistake, this not sport hunting!

Dogs are our pets. They have value beyond being murderers. They should not be treated so casually or callously. Dogs belong in our homes and not in crowded pens away from people as are the Headwaters Hounds. Dogs give us so much of their lives, providing therapy, search and rescue (like the little boy a dog discovered in an Aurora pond this winter), military assistance, seeing eyes, and other life giving efforts, like giving unconditional love, support and kindness to soldiers with PTSD. We talk about and promote animal welfare- teaching them to kill defenseless wildlife is certainly not a part of their well-being.

There was a fox hunt club ball in a local restaurant recently. The only local “ball” I am aware of is the celebration hosted by the hospital foundation to fundraise and to honor medical professionals and volunteers who provide health care and save lives. This ball is a celebration of the hunt. The participants see no value in the dogs or wildlife beyond the thrill and distraction or buzz the hunt gives them.

Several formal citizen complaints were filed last fall with the Colorado Department of Agriculture. At the time no one had bothered to obtain the required license for Pet and Animal Care Facilities or PACFA. A license has since been obtained for “small scale dog breeding kennels” (not livestock) with no background checks or input from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, local residents or neighbors-- and no public hearing! Now anything goes regardless of the regulations for licensing and local ordinances. To say that such authority does not apply because the dogs are “livestock” is absurd and groundless. A dog is a dog -- or is it really a cow or goat? Do cows run and kill wildlife in the forests? Is that why ranchers have cows? Where’s the beef?

Time and effort is being spent to fight this activity because apparently nobody else will. The sheriff’s office receives complaints about the continuous barking that go unanswered. Colorado Parks and Wildlife does nothing and yet this agency is suppose to preserve and protect wildlife, isn’t it? We have humane societies that are suppose to offer support services for the prevention of cruelty to dogs like the Headwaters Hounds and provide public education for responsible pet ownership. Where are they? And, where are the people who love and admire wildlife and their own pets? Where is their compassion and concern for animal welfare, both domestic and wild in this instance?

In my opinion this situation is not debatable or defensible. How can it be? It is truly unconscionable to train dogs to kill when they should be living in a family pack being loved, respected and cared for, given a treat, having their ears scratched and taken to the dog park to play. It is the ultimate in cruelty, greed and hard-heartedness to chase wild animals to the death and kill their young in such a gruesome manner.

I have chosen my words carefully and with heartfelt sincerity in this letter. I have spent most of my life volunteering on behalf of animal protection, both domestic and wild. All of my pets have been rescued, and I have devoted my life and finances for my dog to be able to walk with a prosthetic. This shameful activity is shattering. I deeply believe this unnecessary conduct is disgusting and so unbelievably cruel to the wildlife and their young; inhumane to the penned up dogs all alone outside with nothing to do but bark and then be punished for it. It is of no value or purpose except for “self-serving, self-gratification and momentary entertainment.” There is nothing endearing or appealing about it. It sets a terrible example and precedent; it must not be condoned.

Headwaters Hounds people and cubbers would do better to go out to the Fox Den restaurant on Highway 285 and have a drink, not on me, but on the wildlife and hounds whose lives you will be saving by not participating in or supporting this appalling activity.

In support of the best for all li fe,

Mary Hay Salida

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