After the Humane Society of the United States released a video Aug. 23 of dogs jumping at a chained bear that it said was taped at a "bear baying" in upper South Carolina, a state lawmaker said he will introduce legislation to outlaw the practice.

In the video, dogs are released to run at the bear, barking and jumping at it, before handlers pull them back.

"I was appalled by the recent reports in the media detailing this barbaric practice. It needs to be outlawed," Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said in a news release. "South Carolina cannot have the distinction of being the only state where you can chain up a bear and sic dogs on it for sport."

HSUS investigators videotaped the bear-baying scene on trips to four such events in the Upstate by involving breed clubs associated with the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club. Both groups responded with statements decrying the practice.

"The American Kennel Club does not consider 'bear baying' acceptable," the AKC said in a release. "The American Kennel Club has never and would never approve this activity."
The release also said that the AKC board has barred the group that organized one of the large S.C. events from participating in AKC activities.

The United Kennel Club urged anyone witnessing animal cruelty to contact authorities, but it said in a release that "the issue of bear bays is a legislative matter for which we have no authority whatsoever."

SCDNR officials have long maintained that any changes in laws to address bear baying or bear baiting would have to come from the legislature.

In his blog on the group's website, Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and chief executive officer, called on the state to investigate and prosecute the people involved in bear baying. He also said SCDNR should immediately revoke the permits for the owners or any bears used in the "cruel practice," and see that the bears are relocated to a sanctuary.

In 2008, Attorney General Henry McMaster issued an opinion saying he believes the practice is illegal under the state's animal-cruelty law, but his office has not pursued any cases involving bear baying.

SCDNR did act in 2005 to address the practice by banning private citizens from possessing bears. Owners were allowed to keep any bears already in captivity and permits were issued for 38 bears. An SCDNR spokesman said the number of permitted bears is now down to 21.

SCDNR officials say South Carolina has a very healthy bear population, with bears being documented in 2009 in all but one of the state's 46 counties. There is a 2-week season for bear hunting in October in Pickens, Greenville and Oconee counties: a still-hunt season Oct. 17-23 and a party dog season Oct. 24-30. Last year, hunters bagged 92 bears - the most ever recorded in a season. U