Resolution to protect canine use for hunting passes in NK
Last month, a horde of hunters descended on the Board of Supervisors meeting in Charles City to lobby board members to pass a resolution in support of preserving a longstanding tradition of using dogs to hunt deer in the county. Monday night, it was New Kent County’s turn.
Close to 150 deer hunters turned out for New Kent’s Board of Supervisors meeting, filling the 84-seat board meeting room to capacity before spilling over into nearby hallways and eventually outdoors.
While supervisors in Charles City quickly complied with the hunters’ request, similar action in New Kent took a bit longer, but eventually board members unanimously agreed to adopt the measure.
Hunting groups, however, came organized with representatives who spoke on the issue during the meeting’s public comment session. Quinton resident Jimmy Adams, representing hunt clubs that use dogs in New Kent, and Kirby Burch from the 18,000-member Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance told supervisors that the legal practice of hunting deer with dogs in counties east of the Blue Ridge Mountains is under attack.
“This is fundamentally about our culture and what we feel is a threat to it,” Burch told the board.
Specifically, there have been rumblings in the state’s General Assembly over dog use for hunting. Henrico County resident John Montgomery, who serves on the board of directors for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said that because of development pressure, some rural localities are being forced to reexamine the right to use dogs.
The issue has not gone unnoticed by Game and Inland Fisheries, he said. Last summer, the department, working with Virginia Tech, commissioned a study seeking public input on all hunting dog use in the state, not just for deer, but also bear, fox, and other prey. A series of 16 public information meetings have been held statewide, but none thus far in the New Kent area.
“The study is going forward and is made up of people experienced with hound hunting to come up with best practices for the future,” Montgomery said, adding the department would be conducive to scheduling a public input session in New Kent or close by.
The study, dubbed “Preserving Virginia’s Hunting Heritage,” is slated to conclude this fall with recommendations made to Game and Inland Fisheries. (Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Next, the department will hold public hearings on the study’s findings.
“At the end of the day, hunting with hounds will be preserved in Virginia,” Montgomery told the board.
New Kent supervisors, meanwhile, agreed that the right to use dogs should be preserved. But District 5 representative Ray Davis, himself an avid hunter, noted that development in New Kent has attracted residents who are not hunting advocates, making the issue of using dogs a touchy subject with private landowners.
“I love my dogs, but we’re in different times now,” he told the crowd. “We hear from people who bought 25 acres and don’t want dogs running on their property. I’ve had smart dogs and I’ve had dumb dogs, but none of them can read.
“I’ll support this resolution, but I want us to be better stewards of land in the county and for the people who live in the county,” he said. “We need to work together to make this a better place to hunt and for the people who own the land the dogs run across.”
District 1 Supervisor Thomas Evelyn said he has researched the matter of resident complaints about hunting dogs on the loose in the past year and found only one report lodged with the sheriff’s office. Of the dozens of stray dogs rounded up each month by the county’s animal control officers, only a handful are hunting dogs, he said.
“We want to keep New Kent rural, and what’s more rural than hunting with dogs?” he said in making a motion to approve the resolution. “It’s better than approving another 2,500 home subdivision.”
District 4 Supervisor Stran Trout, however, urged the board to proceed carefully and construct “a well-conceived resolution,” perhaps delaying action until a work session scheduled for later this month. His suggestion drew grumbles from the crowd.
Evelyn, meanwhile, refused to withdraw his original motion. Subsequent motions advanced by Trout — one to postpone action and the other to avoid taking a stance in support of or in opposition to the Game and Inland Fisheries study — fell by respective 4-1 votes.
County attorney Jeff Summers told the board he foresees no legal problems with acting on the matter. A resolution amounts to policy that can be changed, he said.
After a brief recess to iron out concerns voiced by Trout, the supervisor said, “I feel there’s better ways to handle this, but I’ll vote for this resolution.”
The 5-0 vote elicited loud applause. Satisfied, the hunters emptied out of the meeting room.
In other business conducted before the handful of audience members who remained, supervisors approved a request to rezone 3.65 acres in Providence Forge from B-1 General Business to M-1 Warehousing/Light Industrial.
The action paves the way for Toano-based Trinity Contractors to move its operation to the site known as the Carswell Tract, located on Route 155 just south of the CSX Railroad tracks. The company plans to demolish an existing house and build an office, shop, storage shed, and parking area. Heavy and light trucks will be housed on site.
Most of the company’s 15-20 employees assist Dominion Virginia Power, refurbishing and grounding high voltage transmission line towers, but also work in North Carolina and West Virginia.