Bill would make it illegal to remove hunting dog’s collar

Lansing – State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it illegal to remove a dog collar, a move aimed at curbing the theft of hunting dogs, and discouraging anti-hunters from interfering with hound hunts. 

State Rep. Triston Cole introduced House Bill 5215 in January, which is modeled after a resolution adopted by Michigan United Conservation Clubs last summer at the behest of the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation. 

The bill would make it a crime for any unauthorized person to remove a dog’s collar, and imposes a fine of $1,000 to $2,500 for violators. The bill was initially introduced with a much smaller $100  minimum fine, but testimony in the House Committee on Natural Resources by MHDF’s Mike Thorman convinced lawmakers to increase the potential fine. 

Thorman said MHDF has three motivations behind the bill: to protect hunting dogs from overzealous landowners who will shoot the animals and remove the collars; to prevent thieves from snatching expensive hunting dogs; and to safeguard against anti-hunters known for removing the collars during a hunt. 

Thorman said several dogs belonging to members of his bear hunting group have lost dogs to thieves in recent years. 

“The first thing people do who shoot these dogs is cut the collar off,” Thorman said. “People who steal your dog will also take the collar off.

“We just want a deterrent to doing that,” he said. 

Thorman testified in committee about repeated instances of landowners killing dogs and other unlawful activity that may be prevented through the legislation, as well as the function and cost of the expensive GPS collars used by houndsmen. The cost of the collar alone was much higher than the initial fine proposed in the bill. 

Lawmakers “asked for higher penalties” in committee, Cole said, “which I was fine with. This is protecting private property and protecting a lawful activity of hunting with dogs,” he said. 

“When I talk to people about this, it’s not just the destruction of private property, it’s the safety of a dog hunting in an area that is often away from home,” he said. “We need to make sure the collars stay with the dogs.”

The bill was voted out of committee in early May, and Cole said he’s “very optimistic” the legislation will become law this year. 

“I’m pushing to get it on the (House) floor as quickly as possible,” he said. 

Michigan United Conservation Clubs Deputy Director Amy Trotter said the organization adopted a resolution calling for the legislation last summer after years of complaints from hound hunters about issues with disgruntled landowners or anti-hunters removing dog collars. 

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