Every year, it’s the same here in Northeast Florida and I presume, elsewhere in the nation, based on what I see on Petfinder and Facebook.
Hounds. Coming out of the woods, the swamp, the fields. More hounds. Wandering lost on the side of a highway. Still more hounds, wandering up to someone’s yard looking for, and begging for, some bit of food, some scrap of love and attention.
Still more of them, landing in a kill shelter somewhere with virtually zero chance at adoption, and only a slightly better chance at rescue being able to take them on. And more hounds, laying dead on a road or in a ditch, either having starved to death or having been hit by a vehicle, or shot by someone who didn’t appreciate having their chickens killed, their trash raided or their sensibilities disturbed by a baying, crying, hungry hound.
Far too many people (yes, I know not all, but it seems the vast majority) believe that a coonhound, regardless of the flavor, is no different from a weed eater, a lawn mower, a rake or a shotgun — a tool to be used during hunting season and then discarded in a myriad of ways, none with a happy ending, or just ignored (the lucky ones?) until next hunting season.
While I am not a hunter, I don’t have a huge “tree-hugger” aversion to the notion if it’s done as humanely as possible and the killed beast provides food. What I have a deep philosophical abhorrence and loathing for is those hunters who are too cheap to provide decent care for their dogs that work so hard for them — vetting, heartworm prevention, love and attention. Those hunters who think that if a dog is spayed or neutered they won’t hunt. Those hunters who think half-starved dogs hunt better.
Hounds will hunt because that’s what hounds do and have done for hundreds of years. Reproductive parts have nothing to do with the operation of their noses that tell them to go find the deer or raccoon regardless of whether they’ve eaten in the past two weeks or not.
The shelters around here see a huge influx of coonhounds, mostly walker hounds and black and tans, at the end of hunting season because a lot of guys are simply too cheap to feed them for the 10 months of the year they are stuck in pens with a herd of other hounds, so they dump them. Again, the lucky ones end up in shelters.
Then a few months before next hunting season, they’ll be cruising Craigslist or the kill shelters, looking for next season’s work crew. And yes, I know there are good hunters who are responsible and treat their hounds like members of the family. I know people like that; some are friends of mine. But far too many do not fit that description.
This is why we at The London Sanctuary have so many unadoptable hounds. The only hounds we have ever adopted out have gone up north and a couple of other states; we’ve never adopted one locally.
These are wonderful, funny and sweet family dogs. Yes, they have certain quirks, predilections and traits, as does every other breed. They do like a good bit of exercise (most anyhow, mine are lazy and sorry in that regard), and they can be on the noisy side. No dog breed is for everyone, but if you can handle a lab or a dalmatian, you can certainly handle a coonhound. Please consider fostering or adopting a coonhound if your home and lifestyle suits one. They will steal your heart (and hog your bed), I can promise you that.
Glen St. Mary
Founder of The London Sanctuary canine rescue