Fla. approves dog program for deer hunters

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — State officials voted Wednesday to require hunters to register their dogs before setting the animals loose to chase deer.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, meeting in Daytona Beach, unanimously approved the registration program for hunters statewide who use dogs on privately owned land.

Complaints about the dogs dropped in 16 Panhandle counties where officials tested the registration program last year, said Lt. Col. Mike Wiwi, deputy director of the commission's law-enforcement division.

That program required hunters to have a copy of their registration with them during open deer season, along with written permission from property owners to hunt on their land. A number assigned to each property had to be affixed to dogs' collars along with the owner's name and telephone number.

Violations were punishable by 60 days in jail or a $500 fine.

Meanwhile, complaints increased northeast and Central Florida, where dogs were not required to be registered, Wiwi said.

Florida is one of only nine states that permit dog hunting, and one of two that allow it statewide.

Property owners have complained that hunters and their dogs trespass on their land.

Other sportsmen contend that dogs running through land where they wait for game ruins their "still" hunts. Still hunters said their complaints have drawn retaliatory responses that include arson, threats and nails strewn in their driveways.

Some dog hunters said the registration program unfairly singles them out.

Mike Thomas, president of the Miami Tract Hunt Club that hunts in central Volusia and Brevard counties, said current regulations requiring hunters to act responsibly should be sufficient.