Efforts to legalize captive deer breeding in new states or loosen regulations in states where such practices are currently permitted were overwhelmingly defeated during the 2012 legislative session. Of nine bills being tracked by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), seven were unsuccessful, two remain stalled in committee, and only one has become law.
“These are huge wins for wild deer, deer hunters and the North American hunting heritage,” said QDMA CEO Brian Murphy. “This defeat of these harmful bills was a joint effort by numerous hunting and conservation groups and QDMA members.”
Of particular significance, attempts to legalize deer breeding in three new states were unsuccessful, including Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. QDMA extends special thanks to the Wildlife Federations in these states, which played key roles in defeating these bills.
“These wins were particularly important in safeguarding wild deer and the rich hunting traditions in these key southern states,” said QDMA Director of Education and Outreach Kip Adams.
Other legislative victories include those in Indiana which would have legalized “hunting preserves” for farm-bred and released deer; Missouri which would have reclassified captive whitetails from wildlife to “livestock”; and West Virginia where authority over deer farms would have been transferred from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture.
In New Jersey and New York, bills aimed at transferring authority over captive deer breeding facilities from these state’s wildlife agencies to their departments of agriculture are still alive, though not progressing. Both legislatures are still in session.
Of the legislation QDMA was tracking, only one has become law thus far. Previously in Ohio, authority over deer breeders was shared between Ohio DNR and the Department of Agriculture. A bill to transfer more authority to Agriculture passed the legislature and was signed into law by the governor of Ohio. Unfortunately, this law greatly weakens the Ohio DNR’s ability to protect the state’s wild deer from potential escapes and disease introduction.
All of these bills were part of a concerted effort by captive deer breeders to expand their industry. QDMA views captive deer breeding and shooting of such animals as potential threats to wild whitetails and North America’s deer-hunting heritage. In February, the organization outlined seven major points of concern with this industry, including erosion of the North American Model of wildlife conservation, loss of public support for hunting, and potential spread of disease. QDMA’s complete position statement is available online: http://www.qdma.com/news/faq-qdmas-stance-on-captive-deer-breeding.
“Although wild whitetails and deer hunters won nearly all of the legislative battles this year, we fully expect the deer breeding industry to continue to push for growth and de-regulation for the foreseeable future,” said Murphy. “Thankfully, a growing number of concerned sportsmen and conservation organizations are recognizing the potential threats created by the growth of this industry and are banding together in support of wild deer and the North American deer-hunting heritage.”