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Hounding Shelters

Virginia animal welfare facilities cope with annual waves of cast-off hunting dogs

Virginia animal welfare facilities cope with annual waves of cast-off hunting dogs

Timothy, an American foxhound, was found in the middle of the road by Ellen Thacker, executive director of the Gloucester- Mathews Humane Society. Here, Timothy poses proudly with shelter staff member Thomas McNulty. ELLEN THACKER/
GLOUCESTER-MATHEWS HUMANE SOCIETY
People have been using hounds to hunt in Virginia for as long as there’s been a Virginia. That tradition has created an influx of the dogs into the state’s animal shelters.

“Hunting with dogs goes back to the first white settlers in this country, so it’s a tradition that goes back to Colonial times here,” says Kevin Kilgore, chief of animal control for Hanover County and president of the Virginia Animal Control Association.

The hunting culture dates back to Jamestown, the first English settlement in North America, explains Kilgore. “If Captain John Smith had had dogs, he probably would have used them.”

Hound hunting—the practice of hunters using packs of hounds to track and corner, or to flush out rabbits, raccoons, deer, and even bear—is just part of the landscape of Virginia, and, according to Kilgore, his jurisdiction is its epicenter.

“Hanover County is the hunting dog capital of the universe. There are more hunting dogs here, per capita, than anywhere in the mid-Atlantic region,” he says, citing a statistic from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

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