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Friday, May 30, 2014

Ind. Courts - More on: Even more on: State DNR appeals high fence hunting ruling to the COA

This is the ILB's third post in a row on the State's appeal of the Harrison County trial court ruling in DNR v. Whitetail Bluff, which held that:

The deer purchased by Whitetail Bluff and offspring thereof, are privately owned and are not the property of the people of the State of Indiana. Therefore the animals are not subject to regulation by DNR by virtue of the provisions of Indiana Code ยง14-22-1-1.
Yesterday's posts are here and here.

Indianapolis Star reporter Ryan Sabalow, who wrote the series earlier this year on the captive-deer industry, reports today in a story headed "AG appeal calls unregulated high-fence hunting 'absurd and dangerous.'" Some quotes:

Even though deer on Indiana's four fenced preserves are privately owned, they're still wild animals, the state's attorneys argued in a brief filed with the Indiana Court of Appeals.

As such, they fall under the regulatory authority of the Department of Natural Resources, which is the "sole administrator and arbiter of hunting in Indiana."

The brief is the latest salvo in a legal and legislative stalemate over high-fence hunting in Indiana. In 2005, the DNR issued an order attempting to shut down the state's fenced deer hunting preserves, after a case in which deer bred for big antlers were being shot in enclosures so small that officials called them "killing pens." The preserves sued, challenging the order.

Last year, a Harrison County judge ruled that the DNR had no authority over captive-deer hunting because the animals on the preserves were privately owned. They are sold as part of a boutique agricultural industry that breeds deer with antlers sometimes twice as large as the record for animals killed in the wild. Valuable breeding bucks and does can command six-figure prices.

The status of the animals remains unclear, however. Less than a year before the Harrison County ruling, an Owen County judge tossed out another case challenging the DNR's authority.

The attorney general's office is appealing the Harrison County case, saying that removing DNR's authority to regulate hunting on the preserves would create "a regulation-free environment where individuals can hunt without a license, out of season, with weapons not typically used for hunting and with blatant disregards for Indiana's safety and ethical hunting standards." * * *

Currently, the state's four preserves are offering hunts without oversight from wildlife officials, and hunting methods aren't governed by agricultural humane slaughter standards. An Indianapolis Star investigation published earlier this year revealed disease risks in the growing captive deer industry and showed that most states that allow high-fence hunting do not regulate hunting practices on the preserves.

In the brief, the state's attorneys say that if the deer are classified as livestock instead of wildlife, as the preserve owners argue, state law actually forbids them from being hunted.

For more than 10 years, Indiana's lawmakers have been unable to reach agreement on high-fence hunting legislation, which is introduced almost annually. A bill that would have set regulatory standards for preserves was narrowly defeated this year in the Senate.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he decided to appeal the Harrison County case in an effort to clarify the law because state lawmakers have been unable to.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 30, 2014 07:59 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts