NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Judicial review is a part of our government. The courts act as a check on the power of the legislature and the executive branch. Judicial restraint needs to be the close cousin of judicial review. The courts should intervene only when a law is off-the-rails; an egregious violation of constitutional rights for example.
Consider judicial review of Wisconsin’s wolf hunting rules. Several animal rights groups sued saying using dogs to hunt wolves was cruel. A Dane County judge – on the theory that every possible wrong must have a judicial solution – issued a completely unproductive ruling. Judge Peter Anderson ruled that dogs can be used. But he also ruled that dogs can’t be specifically trained for wolf hunting. Huh?
Hunting regulations, and there are a lot of them in Wisconsin, are written by the Department of Natural Resources. And, agree or disagree with their decisions, the DNR is full of experts on hunting. They were told, specifically by the legislature in the wolf hunting bill that was passed last year, that dogs would be allowed. They, as instructed, drafted hunting regulations within the guidelines that the law required.
Judge Anderson is not an expert on hunting. He could have struck down the dog hunting provision if, for instance, the state Constitution had specific provisions for animal rights. It doesn’t. So the legislature passed a law that passes constitutional muster. The review then shifts to the specific regulations that the DNR drew up, with the question being do they comply with state law. See above, the legislature specifically said dogs would be allowed. The judge’s ban on training dogs to hunt wolves is not only nonsensical, it’s made up out of thin air.
The DNR doesn’t oversee the training of animals. In fact, even if there were laws concerning animal training (there are – training animals with live bait, in most cases, is illegal) these laws are impossible to enforce. How do we know if a drug leader is training his pit bull to fetch a stick or attack a person? How can we tell if a hunting dog is being trained to hunt a rabbit, or a duck, or tennis ball, or a wolf? There’d certainly be no way for a DNR warden in the field to discern what a dog was trained to do.
Whether or not using dogs to hunt wolves is cruel is open to debate. The question before Judge Anderson isn’t a moral question – it’s a legal one. And he imposed his own half-a-loaf judgment in an area he should have stayed out of. The correct answer was to tell the DNR, “you’re the experts, I trust you to do what’s right.”