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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Judge: Sheriff’s use of dogs to kill dangerous wildlife OK

Associated Press

Associated Press

GOLDENDALE, Wash. – A Washington judge has decided not to halt the manner in which a southern Washington sheriff handles what he considers dangerous cougars.

The wildlife advocacy group Mountain Lion Foundation sued Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer and the county after Songer deputized hound handlers to track and kill cougars he considers a public safety concern, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

A 1996 voter initiative banned hunting cougars with hounds in Washington, except in life-threatening situations.

“This is an end run around of the permission of the Legislature and our voters,” Adam Karp, attorney for the wildlife activists, said in court.

According to call logs, handlers have been called out at least 63 times over the last two years. At least 19 cougars have been killed.

This week’s ruling by Judge Samuel Swanberg in Benton County Superior Court came after a hearing Friday. David Quesnel, prosecuting attorney for Klickitat County, said the policy doesn’t go beyond Songer’s authority because sheriffs generally have significant discretion about how and when to enforce the law.

In an earlier interview, Songer said it’s his job to protect livestock, pets and especially people from cougars.

Karp said the Mountain Lion Foundation could continue the lawsuit, which has one other legal claim seeking to halt the policy, and could also appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.