Lawsuit Challenges California’s Use of GPS Tracking Devices on Hunting Dogs


A coalition of animal protection groups — the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Public Interest Coalition, and Friends of Animals — filed the opening brief in their lawsuit against the California Fish and Game Commission for altering its hunting regulations to allow hunters to use an unusually cruel and unfair method of hunting. The regulations now allow qualifying animals to be killed with the aid of hunting dogs wearing previously prohibited GPS tracking devices on their collars.

The tracking devices allow dogs to run after prey, often chasing them to exhaustion, before the hunters follow the GPS signal to find an animal who can no longer flee and is easily shot. The new regulations also allow the use of “treeing switches” on hunting dogs — radio telemetry that tells a hunter when an animal has been chased into a tree.

As the lawsuit argues, the commission’s decision to allow hunters to use these methods is not only inhumane but also violates state law. The groups are asking the Superior Court of the State of California to find the state agency is violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in failing to examine a range of ways their decision would significantly impact the environment and individual wild animals.

A hunter with dogs. Image credit Florida Fish and Wildlife, CC BY-SA 2.0.

“The California Fish and Game Commission’s omission of the required research detailing how this rule change would affect wildlife demonstrates its priority to accommodate hunters over the protection of animals,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Authorizing the use of GPS collars and treeing switches would result in unconscionable cruelty and an anticipated increase in animal deaths.”

This is the second time the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its coalition partners have petitioned the California court system to prevent the commission from allowing the use of GPS collars and treeing switches for hunting. The previous lawsuit was filed in 2016, and was dismissed when the agency revisited its decision.

This subsequent lawsuit challenges the California Fish and Game Commission’s decision to allow the use of GPS collars and treeing switches, yet again, without following the legal requirement to conduct an assessment of how the use would affect wildlife. This time the commission is incorrectly asserting a “common sense exemption” to the requirement that the assessment be performed.

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Featured image: a hunting dog carrying a dead pheasant. Image credit Huckabee Photography, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. The Animal Legal Defense Fund accomplishes this mission by filing high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm, providing free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes, supporting tough animal protection legislation and fighting legislation harmful to animals, and providing resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. Click to see author's profile.

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