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Fifteen years after Washington voters banned using hounds in cougar hunts, lawmakers want to make permanent hunting seasons allowing the use of dogs to hunt cougars.
In 1996, voters passed Initiative 655 to bar hunters from using dogs to hunt cougars except in public safety situations. But Democratic Rep. Brian Blake of Aberdeen wants to put regulatory authority back in the hands of officials at the Department of Fish and Wildlife and let them determine cougar hunting seasons with hounds.
The department says a pilot hound-hunting program established in 2004 has caused a 75 percent decline in cougar complaints in the six counties it affects, and allows for healthier control of the cougar population.
Opponents to Blake's bill say hunting cougars with dogs is still a cruel and inhumane practice.
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