The headline read: “Wolf attacks on domestic animals subject of public hearing in state House.”
Sen. John Smith (kneeling), Reps. Joel Kretz (fifth from left) and Shelly Short (third from right) pose with the dog attacked by a gray wolf. The context was a pair of bills recently introduced in the Washington Legislature aimed at giving citizens an exemption to kill wolves “in the act of attacking or posing an immediate threat to livestock or pets.”
Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican member of the Washington House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, told news sources that, “This bill interjects some common sense into this debate and puts in place modest protections for many ranchers and pet owners.”
Added co-sponsor Rep. Shelly Short, the ranking Republican on the Washington House Environment Committee, “Right now, many livestock and pet owners in this state are being held hostage to an unrealistic and unnecessary standard when it comes to wolf predation.”
Sen. John Smith, the sponsor of a parallel Washington Senate measure (S.B. 5187), said that, “The state’s wolf conservation and management plan did not anticipate the extreme concentration of wolves that we see today in northeastern Washington and the resulting catastrophic damage it would render to family farms and rural residents.”
From their comments, and certainly from the news coverage, one might assume that this is another case of ranchers vs. conservationists, another chapter in an ongoing battle between people raising livestock and people who believe wolves have as much right—or more—to occupy the forests and rangelands in the rural Northwest.
That would be inaccurate.
Listen to the comments these legislators made when discussing the subject in-depth:
“What we’re talking about here is when we hear our dog getting snatched off the front porch in the middle of the night and attacked by a gray wolf, we have some recourse to defend our pet,” Kretz said. “Right now, I could catch a wolf in the act of killing a colt or dog in my front yard and not be able to shoot the wolf to protect my animals.”
(Maybe the solution’s to bring Fido inside?)
Or consider the spectacle that unfolded during a House hearing last month, when Twisp, Wash., resident John Stevie testified about a near-fatal wolf attack on his dog Shelby. Stevie brought the injured dog with him to the hearing and news media were quick to publicize photos of the animal, its owner and various legislators posing outside the state capitol building.