WILSON, Virginia – Shortly after Jim Medeiros purchased his 143-acre cattle and poultry farm in rural Virginia a decade ago, he and his wife were startled by the sounds of 20 hounds barking and howling as they circled their home and chased them. chicken.
When Medeiros encountered a fisherman nearby, the man told him he had permission to fish on Medeiros’ property. In disbelief, Medeiros contacted the agency that enforces state law that allows hunters to retrieve their hounds from private property, even when property owners object.
Medeiros recalls: “Tell me, you cannot prevent people from coming to your land.”
He then indicated that his land was suspended without signs of trespassing on the property of others.
“I said: You don’t understand,” Medeiros said. “My land is proclaimed.”
The official replied, “You don’t understand.” “You can’t stop them.”
After years of dealing with stray dogs and dead chickens, Medeiros and several other property owners are suing the state over the Right of Restitution Act, arguing that allowing poachers to go onto their property without permission amounts to expropriating their land for free. It violates state and federal constitutions.
A number of states allow hunters to retrieve their dogs without permission from property owners under certain conditions, such as property without “no trespassing” tags. But Virginia law says hunters are allowed to retrieve dogs even when a property owner specifically denies access to them.
A 2016 report prepared by the Virginia Department of Fish and Hunting, now the Department of Wildlife Resources, said only one other state, Minnesota, had a similar law. Minnesota law states that a person can enter private land to retrieve a hound without the owner’s permission, but cannot obtain a firearm when doing so and must leave immediately after retrieving the dog.
Virginia law prohibits hunters from carrying guns or bows and arrows while retrieving their dogs from private property. It also says that fishermen should identify themselves when asked by the landlord. If they refused, they could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Virginia property owners are suing the Department of Wildlife Resources, which enforces the law. They are represented by Pacific Legal, a conservative legal organization that won a major property rights case in the US Supreme Court last year. The Supreme Court has found that a California regulation requiring agricultural companies to allow union organizers on their property for up to three hours a day, 120 days a year, amounts to granting the government “access to private property” and “in and of itself constitutes bodily taking” under court case law. .
Daniel Woslow, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, said he believed Virginia’s “right to recover” law amounted to a similar physical forfeiture of private property.
“When Jim has to allow deer dogs and deer hunters onto his property, and he’s not allowed to tell them to stay away, and when they kill his livestock and disrupt his operations, that is his most valuable possession,” Woislaw said.
The law itself was first put into the books in 1938, but the tradition of hound hunting dates back 400 years to the colonial era, said Kirby Burch, a bear hunter who owns eight hounds and is CEO of Virginia Hunting Dog. The Alliance, a political action committee representing about 90,000 fishermen in the state. Porsche said most hunters try to be considerate of landowners and quickly get their dogs back when they cross onto private property.
“A lot of people who move in here from other states are offended by the idea of dog hunting, so when a dog runs across their property, they are offended, and I understand that, but I think the vast majority of hunters with dogs try and hunt with dogs,” said Borsch, 75, who He added that he has been hunting dogs since he was five, in every possible way to avoid angering their neighbours.
The Birch Group estimates that more than half of the 254,000 licensed hunters in Virginia fish with dogs.
The suit asks the court to issue a ruling declaring that the law takes the plaintiffs’ private property without compensation for public use, a violation of the state constitution and the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Several attempts were made in the legislature to repeal the law, but none were successful.
Ryan Brown, executive director of the Wildlife Resources Department, declined to comment on the lawsuit. Brown said hunters and private landowners were able to co-exist mostly peacefully, but as more rural land developed and Virginia became more suburban, the two groups were at odds over the issue of hounds.
“Both sides of the debate have their own interests, with hunters concerned with protecting their hounds and landlords with an interest in protecting their rights as landowners,” Brown said.
Both sides were very enthusiastic about their views.”