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The state of Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has proposed new rules to create a nonlethal enforcement program for the purpose of training dogs to assist in locating offending bear, cougar, and bobcat.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is authorized to allow the use of dogs to hunt or pursue bear, cougar, or bobcat if there is a public safety need; to protect livestock, domestic animals, and private property; for scientific purposes; or to protect endangered species.  WDFW police frequently call upon dog handlers to assist in locating offending animals.  In these cases, handlers may be seen as acting as agents of the state and should be appropriately trained and experienced; however, the state does not have a program that allows handlers to keep dogs trained in between calls for service.

The proposed rules are based on House Bill 1516, which was enacted in 2019 to allow the training of hound handlers and their dogs for appropriate conflict response.  WDFW reports that the proposed rules emphasize, “safe, ethical, responsible, and lawful hound handling practices” and specific wildlife species detection by dogs; and hopes to improve dog handler/department relations, effective detection of target species when requested, and the ethical treatment of working dogs and wildlife.

The proposed rule outlines the requirements an applicant must meet in order to qualify to join this program and procedures for participation.  50 individuals will be selected and approved through an extensive application process, including background checks.  The program will be administered and monitored through WDFW’s Enforcement Program.

For more information about the proposal, visit  There, interested parties will learn how to comment on the proposal and how to participate in an early-December webinar on the matter.

For more information, contact AKC Government Relations at