A local raccoon hunter is seeking a change in state law that currently prohibits him from training coon dogs on certain land in DeKalb County except for 30 days prior to the raccoon hunting season.
The hunter, Jimmy Williams has discussed his concerns with at least one member of the county commission, Elmer Ellis, Jr. who raised the issue during Monday night's county commission meeting.
The restrictions apply to a small portion of the county identified under Tennessee Code Annotated where coon dog training is not allowed year round.
The law (Tennessee Code 70-4-122) states that it is unlawful for any person or firm to train coon dogs by chasing raccoons in that part of DeKalb County lying south and west of state highway No. 96 and U.S. Highway No. 70, except during the thirty (30) days immediately preceding the opening of the season under general laws of the state for hunting raccoons.
According to TWRA officials, this part of DeKalb County was added to the law approximately forty years ago after a property owner complained that hunting dogs were harming his livestock. County officials apparently petitioned state lawmakers to take action at the request of the property owner, who has since reportedly passed away.
In order to exclude DeKalb County from the law, the county commission will most likely have to adopt a resolution asking the Tennessee General Assembly to intervene. But the legislature has adjourned until next January.
During Monday night's meeting, Ellis made a motion for the county commission to get the measure rescinded. "There is a strip of land between DeKalb County and Cannon County on Highway 96 that was by a proclamation back some years ago that is still in effect where these coon hunters train their dogs. During hunting season it wasn't illegal to be on that land. But when it's not hunting season it's illegal to be on it. The dog recognizes no boundaries. Jimmy Williams has brought this to my attention two or three times and he talked to (former TWRA officer) Ben Franklin and Franklin told him that it was still in effect but they haven't enforced it because the man who had it done has apparently died. I would like to make a motion that we rescind that proclamation because it was done by the county court and will have to be undone by the county court," said Ellis.
County Attorney Hilton Conger said he had checked but was unable to locate such a proclamation or private act addressing this issue. The action taken by the commission Monday night was to ask the legislature to rescind any private act that might exist prohibiting the training of coon dogs in DeKalb County.
Since Monday night's meeting, county officials have learned that the regulation pertaining to DeKalb County was not enacted by a private act but included in a provision of Tennessee Code Annotated (state law) and that it would have to be changed by an act of the Tennessee General Assembly.
The law states as follows:
Tennessee Code 70-4-122. Coon dog training
(a) (1) It is unlawful for any person or firm to train coon dogs by chasing coons in West Tennessee and the following counties: Carter, Claiborne, Greene, Johnson, Sullivan, and that part of DeKalb County lying south and west of state highway No. 96 and U.S. Highway No. 70, except during the thirty (30) days immediately preceding the opening of the season under general laws of the state for hunting coons; provided, that none of the provisions of this subsection (a) shall apply to Shelby County or the counties of McNairy, Fayette, Hardeman, Decatur, Dyer, Carroll, Henry, Weakley and Chester.
(2) As used in this subsection (a), “West Tennessee” includes that portion of the state lying west of the Tennessee River where it enters the state from the states of Alabama and Mississippi and emerges into the state of Kentucky, but “West Tennessee” does not include Benton County, Gibson County, Madison County, Henderson County or Hardin County. The provisions of this subsection (a) also apply to the following counties located in other parts of the state: Carter, Claiborne, Greene, Johnson, Morgan, Sullivan, Unicoi, and that part of DeKalb County lying south and west of state highway No. 96 and U.S. Highway No. 70.
"It (law) specifically lists DeKalb County along with a number of other counties where they (state) has regulated this," said TWRA Officer Tony Cross in an interview with WJLE.
"If I have been told right, it was passed years ago because a certain farmer was having trouble with dogs getting into his goats. I don't know if that's a fact," he said.
During Monday night's commission meeting, County Attorney Conger said that it was his understanding that TWRA officers had indicated that this law pertaining to DeKalb County was not being enforced. "I have talked to Tony Cross and to some of the game and fish officers now and they say they don't enforce it. But I think Mr. Williams is afraid that at some point in time somebody might come along and enforce it," said Conger.
Officer Cross told WJLE that any notion the TWRA is not enforcing a law is not correct. "I have either been misunderstood or misquoted as saying we don't enforce it. Let me clarify that. We have not had any specific type of issue but we can't say that we don't enforce it. It is a law and if it comes down to it we would have to enforce it," he said.