By Andy Bensing
The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee met on Wednesday 12/4/2013 and HB451, the leashed blood tracking dog Bill, was on the agenda. I was pretty excited when I heard the week before that the Chairman had decided to put the bill on the agenda. I and other Deer Recovery of PA members have been working for over 13 years to gain legalization in PA. We have gotten 3 bills out of the House of Representatives during that time and into the Senate Game and Fisheries committee. Our current bill under consideration in the committee, HB451, was unanimously passed by the House last May. Well my excitement turned into another letdown when once again the bill was tabled for purposes of further discussion/clarification. The committee members’ general consensus was that they needed more clarification as to how the dogs would be used and how the program would operate in the field.
This is quite frustrating to myself and other hard working members of DRP. We have been working for years to educate the legislature. We send them packets of information, offer unfettered access to us to answer questions and meet with them or their assistants to explain what we do and answer questions. Just this past August and September one of our members personally met with 10 of the 11 committee members or their assistants in one on one meetings at the capital to explain what we do, why we do it and how it is done in other states.
With all this effort on our part our tracking dog bill has been brought up in the Senate Game and Fisheries 3 times in the last 18 months and always has ended up with the same result. Tabled because they need more information.
The meeting did have one bright note in that the consensus was that the committee was not completely against the bill, they did table it instead of voting it down, but they wanted more specifics written into it as to how it would actually be run by the Game Commission once enacted. Several members of the committee spoke with us after the meeting and asked us to assist with that. Also, the Chairman did commit to holding an informational public hearing early next year to try and work out some of these issues.
So all in all the meeting did not live up to my early expectations but we did inch forward a little bit. One thing about blood trackers that’s for sure, we don’t give up easily.