The use of deer hunting dogs will continue in Northwest Florida following an appeals court decision. Florida residents whose property abutted the Blackwater Management Area waged a lengthy legal battle that began in 2016 against this type of hunting, arguing that it “infringed on their property and created a nuisance,” the Daily Business Review reports.
Last week, by majority vote, the three-panel First District Court of Appeals overturned a ruling which would have required the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to end the use of deer hunting dogs. This type of hunting allows hunters to use dogs to flush out deer and has been permitted in the Blackwater Management Area for years, according to Daily Business Review. Property owners included a takings claim in their lawsuit, which contends that hunters using dogs to hunt deer during the brief hunting season kept them from “enjoying their property.”
That language may have lost them their case.
According to the opinion written by Judge Lori Rowe and joined by Chief Judge Brad Thomas, in order for their takings claim to be successful, the property owners would have had to show that the deer dog hunters were permanently on their land, which “deprived them of all economically beneficial use of their land.”
The opinion states, “Here, appellees [the property owners] do not, and cannot, allege that the FWC [the commission] has forced them to submit to a permanent physical occupation of their land. The alleged physical occupation — i.e., sporadic trespasses by deer dog hunters and their dogs during the 44 days of the year when deer dog hunting is authorized — is transitory, not permanent. And the handful of trespasses that have occurred on each of appellees’ individual properties do not rise to the level of a permanent, physical occupation of appellees’ property.”
The appeals opinion said that property owners do have the right to pursue “criminal or civil remedies” for hunters and deer hunting dogs’ owners who trespass on their property, but cannot hold FWC accountable for these actions. However, Judge Joseph Lewis Jr. wrote a 13-page dissent arguing that Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers’s ruling should have been upheld because “appellees should be permitted to pursue their claims that appellant’s [the commission’s] alleged failure to regulate or exercise control over deer dog hunters and their dogs has created a nuisance.”
The Blackwater Management Area is located in Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties and is a “patchwork-like composition” because of the way the state buys land for conservation and recreational purposes, the Daily Business Review reports.