NH Animal Cruelty Prevention: Part II, SB 161
Updated: Dec 15, 2019
Following last years death of comprehensive animal cruelty prevention bill, SB 569-FN, Senator Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) vowed to come back and stand up for animals once again in 2019. Not long after, he held true to those words and began working tirelessly on the well-considered, negotiated, and bi-partisan supported language of two new bills to protect New Hampshire's animals and residents; SB 77-FN and SB 161. Those bills have been introduced into the NH state Legislature, and now its time for residents to help get them past the finish line.
Current Pet Vendor Licensing Laws Contribute to Cruelty and Risk the Spread of Disease
There have been six animal cruelty cases involving unlicensed NH breeders in the past two and a half years alone. A case in Malborough last July, involved the seizure of 52 Labrador retrievers, including puppies suffering from injuries due to overexposure to excrement. That was less than two months after animal protection bill SB 569-FN died.
Many animal cruelty cases also involve contagious and sometimes zoonotic diseases. According to testimony in the Malborough trial, the breeder admitted that an entire litter of puppies died while in his custody due to a contagious disease, of which he believed his lawn was still contaminated. Over seven months after the seizure of his animals, the Defendant was found guilty on two charges of animal cruelty in the District Court, which he has appealed.
According to reports of cases in Alexandria and Bristol, involving over 30 German Shepherds, the unlicensed breeder moved to NH from MA after a series of violations and incidents. Those incidents included an outbreak of parvovirus, which claimed the life of 10 dogs. After moving to NH, 36 German Shepherds died in horrific fires while in the Defendant's custody. The cause of one of the fires was from heat lamps she attached to their cages and left unattended. A total of 31 surviving German Shepherds were seized from the Defendant; some found living in subzero temperatures. Those cases have been on-going for over a year and will continue due to the Defendant's appeal of the guilty ruling by the District Court.
Many residents are now asking, why were those breeders unlicensed and unregulated, and how many more animals must suffer due to lack of commonsense oversight for our state to enhance our laws?
SB 161 - Enhancing Pet Vendor Licensing Laws
Senate Bill 161 lowers the current perilously high breeder licensing threshold, while also establishing equal licensing standards for all pet vendors; including breeders, shelters, rescues and pet stores, which will enhance animal cruelty and disease prevention. It accomplishes that by changing the "Pet Vendor" definition and removing the "Commerical Kennel" definition within current law.
Transfer: The exchange of ownership from any person/business/entity to any member of the public, whether sold or given, with or without a fee or donation [RSA 437:1].
Current Law [RSA 437:1, IV] Pet Vendor: Any entity who transfers live animals or birds used as household pets to the public. Pet vendors include licensed pet stores, shelters, rescues, fosters, and commercial kennels (AKA commercial breeders). All pet vendors must be licensed and regulated by the Department of Agriculture (DOA).
Current Law [RSA 437:1, II] Commercial Kennel: Any breeder who transfers 50 puppies or 10 litters in 12 months; meaning breeders below that threshold must not be licensed or regulated.
That law has led to the current licensure of a mere 8 out of the estimated thousands of breeders in NH. Meanwhile, all pet stores, animal shelters, rescues, and fosters, including those run out of private homes, are required to be licensed and inspected by the DOA.
SB 161 Pet Vendor: Any entity that transfers 25 or more dogs, 25 or more cats, 30 or more ferrets, or 50 or more birds, to the public, between July 1 and June 30 of each year.* As well as any entity that transfers amphibians, reptiles, fish, or small mammals in quantities set in the rules adopted by the DOA.
SB 161 also removes the Commercial Kennel definition; meaning that all breeders must comply with the new licensing threshold set within the bill, along with all the other pet vendors in NH.
Not only does this simplify the law and create more equal requirements among all pet vendors, but it also enhances the prevention of cruelty and spread of disease, as it requires the licensure and regulation of more breeders in the state. It would also prevent NH from being a go-to state for irresponsible breeders.
"The problem I think New Hampshire is having, and why we have a number of these high profile cases, is that our laws are so much more lax than states around us."
Senate Session, March 7, 2019
NH Has Weak Laws Compared To Other New England States
Multiple cruelty cases have involved Defendant's who moved to NH from out-of-state, such as the aforementioned German Shepherd case and the Wolfeboro Great Dane case, to name a few. When comparing how NH stacks up to other New England states, it leads many to believe irresponsible breeders are moving here due to lax laws.
For instance, Vermont requires breeder licensure for those who transfer 3 litters of dogs or cats within 12 months [20 V.S.A. § 3541].
Licensing is required in Connecticut for the transfer of 2 liters of dogs within 12 months [Conn. Gen. Stat § 22-342], or if 10 or more unspayed/unneutered dogs capable of breeding are kept (if the breeder is located in a town with such set requirements, otherwise § 22-342 applies.) [Conn. Gen. Stat § 22-344c].
Requiring Health Certificates To Prevent Disease
When we open our homes up to a companion animal, it is vital to ensure those lifelong family members are healthy and that precautions are taken to safeguard them and our household from diseases. It is reasonable that pet vendors should be required to do the same before offering those future family members to the public.
NH law [RSA 437:10, I] before July 2017, required that dogs, cats, and ferrets were vaccinated by a veterinarian to protect them from infectious diseases before offering them for transfer. It also required that any of those animals transferred were accompanied by a health certificate signed by a veterinarian no more than14 days beforehand, and that the transferee would receive a copy for their records. Unfortunately, that requirement was removed from the law in 2017.
SB 161 would put that essential law back in place. The only difference in the language is that the veterinarian who signed the health certificate shall provide a copy of it to the DOA upon their request [SB 161, Section 3, Lines 18-30].
"And [it's] not just in Wolfeboro, but Alexandria, Bristol, Croydon, we can talk about the case in Berlin, we can go on and on."..."We have to identify and get at the problem; SB 161 does that."
-Chief Dean Rondeau, Wolfeboro PD
Public Hearing, February 7, 2019
SB 161 and SB 77-FN have been years in the making, and a true result of research and compromise, as well as the exhaustive efforts and insight from those on the front lines battling cruelty and caring for animal victims every day. And most importantly, it is in honor of the animals themselves who have endured cruelty, paving the way towards brighter days for other animals in the future. It's time to contact our legislators and urge their support to ensure those animals did not suffer in vain.
03/07/2019: SB 161 was amended by the Senate [0657s], adding an appropriation for the hiring of a clerk within the Department of Agriculture, in the sum of $100,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, and the sum of $84,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.
03/21/2019: SB 161 was tabled by the Senate, not with the intent to kill the bill, but due to the appropriation that was added. Several, if not all bills, with an appropriation or fiscal notes were tabled by the Senate so that they could be discussed as part of the State budget proposal, HB 2.
*06/06/2019: The language of SB 161 was added via amendment [2403s], by the Senate, to the state budge proposal, HB 2. A change to the Pet Vendor definition was made at that time, changing the pet vendor licensing threshold from 20 dogs or cats, as it was within SB 161, to 25 dogs or cats within amendment 2403s. HB 2 was passed by the Senate on the same day, with the amendment included. The House non-concurred with the Senate and a committee of conference is scheduled to begin on 6/17/19.
06/17 - 06/20/2019: The Senate and House agreed during committee of conference to keep the Pet Vendor Definition and the Health Certificate Requirements within HB 2, which they have recommended to the full House within their report [2630-CofC, P.114, Lines 3-32]. House vote scheduled for June 27th.
06/27/2019: The House passed HB 2 with the revised pet vendor definition and health certificate requirements as recommended by the Committee of Conference, with a vote of 207-145. See how your representative voted via the roll call, here. The bill now awaits signature by Governor Sununu.
06/28/2019: Governor Sununu vetoed HB 2.
09/25/2019: House attempted to override the Governor's veto, but lacked the necessary two-thirds vote with results of 205-151 (roll call).
House introduced and passed HB 4 (new budget bill) with the pet vendor definition and health certificate requirements included (exactly as adopted within HB 2 prior to veto) [HB 4, P. 104, Line 32 - P. 105, Line 23]. House passed HB 4 via vote of 316-40 (roll call).
Senate adopted HB 4, as passed by the House, via vote of 23-1, with Sen. Guida being the only opposition (roll call).
09/26/2019: Governor Sununu signed HB 4, officially adopting the budget bill with the pet vendor definition and health certificate requirements included.