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Landowner: Require permission for hunting dogs on private land

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, March 25, 2019

Citing concerns about property rights, Pasquotank resident Doug Lane is renewing calls for county commissioners to require hunters to have a landowner’s written permission before allowing their dogs to roam onto private property.

Although the controversy around dogs on private property has centered on the use of dogs in hunting deer, the county ordinance Lane is proposing doesn’t just address hunting; it also deals with any instance of dogs being allowed on private property.

“Landowners have the right to the quiet enjoyment and sole use of their property,” Lane said in a Feb. 15 letter to Pasquotank Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeff Dixon. “Deer dog hunters remove these rights and use land that does not belong to them. This issue is more about landowners’ rights being taken than about hunting.”

Lane has proposed the following language for a county ordinance: “It is illegal and unlawful to be in possession of a dog or dogs and allow the dog or dogs to enter private land while hunting, conducting field trials, or at any other time, without being in possession of signed and dated permission of the owner or lessee of the land.”

Lane’s proposal continues: “Permission must be renewed annually. Violation of this subsection is a Class 2 misdemeanor for a first conviction and a Class 1 misdemeanor for a second or subsequent conviction.”

Lane has long sought restrictions on hunters’ use of dogs to hunt deer in Pasquotank County.

About a decade ago the county adopted a rule that banned hunting with a centerfire rifle except from a raised platform. The rule raises the lower level of a rifle’s barrel to a minimum of eight feet above ground level. The regulation came out of discussions that also included consideration of a proposed written permission requirement similar to the one Lane is calling for now.

Bobby Harris, president of the Albemarle Houndsmen Association, said his organization continues to oppose Lane’s proposal.

“He is bound and determined to get that passed and we are bound and determined to oppose it,” Harris said.

Harris said the houndsmen group has a couple of concerns about requiring hunters to seek property owners’ written permission before allowing their dogs to cross their property. One is that even though it’s easier to know where dogs are with the newer GPS tracking collars, the dogs still sometimes will go on property hunters don’t want them to before they can be stopped.

“You still can’t really stop it,” Harris said. “Sometimes the best you can do, your dogs will still go somewhere that you don’t want them to go.”

Another concern, according to Harris, is that many landowners will give oral, informal permission to hunt on their land but are wary of giving written permission because of concerns about increased liability.

“That’s one other thing about written permission, is it’s more or less getting into a contract,” Harris said.

And Harris said some large landowners don’t want a written-permission requirement because it would be a hassle for them, especially if they own a number of different tracts of land jointly with other people.

“It could worry them to death, people calling them all the time wanting permission,” Harris said.

Lane’s letter states the issue is a matter of equal rights.

“Pasquotank County landowners need the same rights as hunters,” he states in the letter to Dixon. “Hunters are protected from harassment by law. Why can armed groups of hunters harass landowners with their dogs and the landowner has little or no legal recourse?”

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