First Va. Senate tiebreaker this session kills bill that would have created new hunting dog regulation

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — For the first time this General Assembly session, a Senate bill’s passage or defeat came down to a tiebreaker.

The Senate voted 20 to 20 regarding a bill that would have placed a new regulation on the use of hunting dogs in Virginia, with one Democratic Senator joining all Senate Republicans in voting against the legislation.

When there is a tied vote in the Virginia Senate, the Lieutenant Governor — currently Winsome Earle-Sears — is asked to break the tie by casting a vote.

In this case, Earle-Sears chose to vote against the bill, defeating it.

Heated debates surrounding hound hunting and its regulations have been sparked in Virginia following the killings of five local hunting dogs in recent months — three in late December 2023 and two in January. These killings happened within days of each other, resulting in pain and outrage.

At the heart of this debate is whether or not those who hunt with dogs should be allowed to retrieve their animals from private property without permission, as is currently legal in,Virginia.

It is already a Class 3 misdemeanor in Virginia to intentionally release a hunting dog on the lands of another without the landowner’s permission. However, owners still have the “Right to Retrieve,” as stated above.

This legislation, Senate Bill 712, was introduced by Sen. David Marsden (D-Fairfax). It would have made it a Class 3 misdemeanor for someone to release a hunting dog “on or within 15 feet of the edge of a roadway owned or maintained by the Department of Transportation or a local government,” according to the bill’s text. Subsequent offenses would have been considered a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The bill would have made an exception for the retrieval of such animals from a highway area, in line with the current “Right to Retrieve” law.

While this bill has been defeated, a budget amendment is being discussed that would require hound hunters to obtain a permit to hunt with dogs — though this proposal has been extensively debated, as well.

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