NH Adopts Animal Fighting Paraphernalia Ban
Governor Chris Sununu signed HB 605-FN today, officially adopting a New Hampshire state prohibition on paraphernalia intended or used for the purpose or furtherance of animal fighting.
Experts have reported legitimate on-going investigations of animal fighting in NH, but they've been unable to prosecute those cases due to the limitations of current law.
HB 605-FN allows for more effective enforcement by granting officials the ability to make an arrest when fighting paraphernalia is found, along with direct and circumstantial evidence that reasonably indicates intent for its use in animal fighting. This is opposed to current law that requires the nearly impossible task of catching someone in the act of fighting their animals.
The bill also prohibits those convicted of animal fighting from owning or possessing any animals for a minimum of five years, as well as other reasonable restrictions on future animal ownership as the court deems necessary for the protection of animals. This is an enhancement of current law, which does not mandate a prohibition, but only grants the court the option to do so and it must be within the same species that the convicted person was using for fighting.
As with all animal protection bills, HB 605-FN did not pass the House without obstacles. The NH federation of the American Kennel Club (AKC), Dog Owners of the Granite State (DOGS), testified in opposition of the bill. DOGS not only perpetuated misconceptions that the bill threatens the rights of residents who own items referenced in the bill for legitimate reasons, but also argued against the mandatory five-year ban on future animal ownership for those convicted.
Angela Ferrari, President of the AKC affiliate, testified against the bill at the public hearing on March 6th. "I do think current statue seems reasonable," she stated, "due to it being unlikely someone would treat their other animals inhumanely just because they were convicted of fighting cock or game fowl."
Her ill-advised statement came despite evidence of the egregious level of cruelty and desensitization to the violence and suffering involved in animal fighting. Those reports come from FBI agents, law enforcement officers and cruelty investigators who have also reported on the ties between animal fighting and homicide, assault, weapons crimes, drug trafficking, and domestic violence. Those convicted of animal fighting have been proven to not only commit horrific acts of cruelty to animals, regardless of species, but to humans as well; making the adoption of HB 605 all the more vital.
The bill hit an additional snag when Representative Howard Pearl (Merrimack-Dist 26), who sits on the House Environment and Agriculture Committee and was against animal welfare bill SB-569-FN last year, motioned to table HB 605-FN before discussion regarding the bill could take place on the House floor.
Fortunately, the House voted against the table motion by a vote of 140-188, and after a debate, followed-up with their vote to pass the bill, 215-124.
After passing the House, the bill moved on to the Senate and was passed with a voice vote in May by an overwhelming majority.
After the signing by Governor Sununu, the bill's primary sponsor, Representative Katherine Rogers (Merrimack-Dist 28), issued a statement, which noted in part, "This bill is critically important to stopping the heinous act of animal fighting in New Hampshire and prosecuting those who organize and engage in it. In recent years, inadequate and unenforceable laws have prevented law enforcement from effectively addressing animal fighting rings in our state."
Also a strong proponent of the bill was Representative Nancy Murphy (Hillsborough-Dist 21), who spoke informatively and concisely in support of HB 605-FN on the House Floor.
"According to law enforcement, there are over 100K animal fighters in the US. It is occurring in NH right now." ... "We all agree this activity must be stopped. Yet, we haven't equipped law enforcement to stop it - now we can."
Representative Douglas Lay (Cheshire-Dist 9) also spoke briefly in support of the bill, while Representative James Spillane (Rockingham-Dist 2), and Representative John Burt (Hillsborough-Dist 39) spoke in opposition.
Despite the misguided opposition, HB 605 stood strong, made it through both chambers of the New Hampshire State Legislature and has received the final stamp of approval via the ink of the Governor's pen. The bill is set to take effect 90 days after its passage, which will be this coming autumn.
This is a major victory not just for animals and residents in NH, but across the nation where the FBI, cruelty investigators, the Drug Enforcement Admin., Dept. of Agriculture, and local law enforcement officials are working together to combat animal fighting and the violent crimes tied to this horrendous blood sport.
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