An animal cruelty prevention bill passed the NH Senate today with a strong majority voice vote. SB 569-FN, which is now headed to the House, has already had quite the journey, and the path towards today's success certainly did not lack barriers, which many residents would find surprising.
SB 569-FN strengthens animal cruelty prevention by improving regulation efficiency and the oversight of those who breed, sell and shelter animals in NH, and enhancing felony-level penalties for cruelties resulting in the severe bodily injury or death of animals.
Before introducing SB 569-FN, Sen. Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) held about nine stakeholder meetings, during which Bradley stated the bill was discussed, "...paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, trying to find common ground and compromise." Additionally, there were two public hearings held by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee allowing the public to be heard.
When explaining the results of that lengthy process, Bradley told the Senate, "What we're left with is something that should not be a problem for responsible dog breeders, but gives the state and local officials better opportunities to prevent animal cruelty cases that we're seeing happen with way too much frequency in our state."
The NH Farm Bureau attended those stakeholder meetings and a compromise was made specifically for the organization by exempting all livestock from SB 569-FN (except chickens in cases allegedly used for animal fighting). The Farm Bureau acknowledged multiple times during the public hearing that they are entirely excluded from SB 569-FN. However, their testimony was in opposition of the bill.
Denis Ward, President of the Farm Bureau stated, "This legislation looks at getting animals off of a property or away from the people that are presumed of being cruel. Where anybody that owns animals knows that any animal is more comfortable in their own home. And so the first priority of this legislation should be to keep the animal at the place where it is."
Regardless of SB 569-FN, current NH law already grants law enforcement authority to seize animals suffering from cruelty, deeming Ward's testimony completely irrelevant. However, it is very telling nonetheless.
The Farm Bureau similarly expressed strong opposition in 2016 against HB 1547, a bill prohibiting bestiality. That bill also included exclusions for the Farm Bureau including veterinary medical practices, insemination for procreation and animal husbandry practices.
The Farm Bureau's continued opposition to animal welfare bills that provide animals with the mere basics of protections and that literally do not impact their organization is beyond disconcerting.
However, due to the strong bipartisan support of the bill overall, as well as from the Humane Society of the United States, NH SPCA, law enforcement, including multiple chiefs of police, NH Federation of Humane Organizations, Animal Control Officers Assoc. of NH, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Assoc., NH Municipal Assoc., and the general public, in addition to no opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union, SB 569-FN was passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on February 20th, with a vote of 4-0.
On March 8th, the bill faced the full Senate for the first time, as well as some additional attempted roadblocks. The bill was voted against by one of its cosponsors, Sen. Giuda (R-Warren), who has yet to explain his change of stance, despite the fact that the intent of the bill and majority of its language has remained intact.
Giuda's weren't the only questionable actions taken on March 8th. Senator Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead), who is the only Senator sitting on the Governor's Commission for the Humane Treatment of Animals, also voted against SB 569-FN, in spite of the Governor's endorsement of the bill.
Her vote in opposition also came after an amendment that she, herself, introduced to the Senate. Once again, Bradley demonstrated his willingness to compromise and did not oppose her amendment. 2 minutes after the Senate voted to adopt the amendment she wanted, she voted against the bill.
However, SB 569-FN stood strong and was first passed by the full Senate with a vote of 19-5 on March 8th. The appropriations portion of the bill passed the Senate Finance Committee 4-2 on March 20th, followed by today's successful majority voice vote.
We can take a well earned moment to celebrate SB 569-FN's passing through the Senate, but we must stay focused and not relent, as the bill now heads to the House where it will undoubtedly face its most challenging battles yet.
In Claremont NH, 14 Cats were found stuffed inside a small, feces, blood, and urine filled cat carrier, that was left outside in the cold. One cat was found dead, and another had to be humanely euthanized due to neurological damage caused by severe dehydration. The surviving cats suffered from hypothermia, dehydration, diarrhea and respiratory infections. The two owners were each charged with 14 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. On March 6th, those charges were reduced to one charge each. They were found guilty on March 19th and received a 140 day, suspended jail sentence (no actual jail time served, contingent upon good behavior), 3 years probation from owning any animals and $2,217.02 in restitution.
SB 569-FN is beyond essential. As we reflect on the lack of justice for those 14 cats, and the other animals enduring cruelties every day, there is no time to waste on senseless opposition to a bill that merely holds people accountable for providing animals with the very basic standards of care. These cruelties must no longer go ignored. SB 569-FN must be implemented, and it must happen now.