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  • Gina Scrofano

NH Bill Proposes Vital Animal Cruelty Prevention



November 2016, Croydon NH:

Police rescued 21 Chihuahuas and one cat from a suspected but unlicensed commercial breeder. Seven of the dogs had to be humanely euthanized due to ataxia and other neurological disorders. The owner had a history of breeding dogs in allegedly inhumane conditions and reportedly surrendered 92 animals between 2008 and 2016, including dogs and cats.


June 2017, Wolfeboro NH:

Police seized 84 Great Danes from a suspected but unlicensed commercial breeder. According to district court trial testimony, a minimum of 6 puppies and one dog died while in the custody of the owner. The Great Danes were deprived of water, and proper care, and suffered from several infections and ailments.


November 2017, 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.


December 2017, Bristol NH:

36 German Shepherds died in two fires at an unlicensed breeding facility. Following those incidents, police seized an additional 22 German Shepherds from the same unlicensed breeder, as they were living in the sub-zero temperatures of an unheated barn. According to reports, the breeder moved to NH from MA, after a series of violations and incidents, including an outbreak of the parvovirus, which claimed the life of 10 dogs.



The above are just some of the animal cruelty cases that occurred in NH from November 2016 to December 2017. During that short period alone, three facts have become undeniably evident; animal cruelty occurs in our state, we need stronger laws to prevent them from happening, and more appropriate penalties must be placed to bring those responsible to justice when they do. SB 569-FN is a bill that addresses those vital necessities in the following four ways.



1. Punishment That Fits The Crime


One of the significant common factors among the cases listed above is that despite involving the severe injury and death of animals, the charges filed were only misdemeanors. This is because current NH laws are so limiting, that misdemeanor charges are often the only legal option. Misdemeanors leave it in the hands of the presiding judge to determine whether or not jail time is appropriate, and unfortunately, in many cases, the ruling leads to no jail time served, such as the District Court's ruling of the Wolfeboro Great Dane case.


SB 569 would make purposeful acts of cruelty resulting in serious bodily injury or death of a domestic animal, a Class B Felony. NH class B Felony-level charges are punishable by a minimum jail sentence of 3 and 1/2 years, up to a maximum of 7 years.


Felony level penalties will allow for sentences that better fit the crime; helping to deter other criminals from committing such horrific acts in the first place, but also serving justice when they do.



2. Commercial Breeder Definition


According to current NH law, for someone to be considered a 'Commercial Breeder/Kennel' and require regulation by the state, they must sell 10 litters of puppies or 50 puppies in one year. Not only is that difficult to enforce, but it is a very high threshold, especially when compared to Vermont's requirement of 3 litters of puppies a year, and Maine's definition requiring 5 breeding females.


SB 569 will redefine the Commercial Breeder definition to be anyone who is both utilizing at least 7 unspade female dogs for the purposes of breeding and selling their offspring. This will require the licensing and regulation of those individuals by the Department of Agriculture.



3. Mandatory Unannounced Inspections


As many recent animal cruelty cases have confirmed, regardless of what those selling animals may present to us, we have no way of fully knowing what goes on behind closed doors unless the facility is inspected.


Unfortunately, NH laws requiring mandatory inspections of commercial breeders, pet stores, animal shelters and animal rescues were weakened when changes were made as part of the state budget for FY 2018, effective July 1, 2017 (see footnote 4). The remaining language of the law does not clarify how often the Department of Agriculture is required to conduct inspections, if at all. This includes before granting an applicant a license to breed and sell animals, continuation of, and renewal of such license.


SB 569 will clarify the law requiring biennial mandatory, unannounced inspections of all licensed commercial breeders, pet stores, animal shelters and animal rescues, which will better ensure animals are receiving the basic standards of care and contribute to the prevention of animal cruelty.



4. Cost of Care Law


When an individual is charged with animal cruelty, the animals are seized by the state, and are lawfully considered evidence. Because they are sentient beings, the animals must be cared for while the case is being prosecuted, which generates expenses. Current NH law leaves that financial burden upon taxpaying residents. Those costs can add up to hundreds of thousands of tax dollars per year.


SB 569 includes a ‘Cost of Care Law’, which requires a civil hearing process in which a judge will review the legality of the seizure and determine a reasonable cost to care for the animals. The defendant, who has lawfully been arrested and charged with animal cruelty, based on probable cause, will then be responsible for those expenses; relieving law-abiding NH residents of that financial burden.



Strong Bi-Partisan Support


SB 569 is already strongly supported by the following Sponsors:

Sen. Bradley (R, Dist 3) - Primary Sponsor

Sen. Carson (R, Dist 14)

Sen. D'Allesandro (D, Dist 20)

Sen. Gannon (R, Dist 23)

Sen. Giuda (R, Dist 2) - Voted Against Bill

Sen. Gray (R, Dist 6)

Sen. Innis (R, Dist 24)

Sen. Kahn (D, Dist 10)

Sen. Reagan (R, Dist 17)

Sen. Ward (R, Dist 8)

Sen. Watters (D, Dist 4)

Sen. Woodburn (D, Dist 1)

Rep. Danielson (R, Hills. 7)

Rep. DesMarais (D, Carr. 6)

Rep. W. Marsh (R, Carr. 8)

Rep. S. Schmidt (R, Carr. 6)

Rep. Umberger (R, Carr. 2)




The Bottom Line


The unnecessary suffering of animals has gone on too long in the state of New Hampshire, in great part due to lack of simple prevention and oversight. SB 569-FN proposes commonsense solutions which will help ensure those in the business of breeding, selling, or sheltering animals are providing the basic standards of care, allow the state to bring those who commit egregious acts of cruelty to justice, while also removing the financial burden to pay for the cost to care for animals seized in cruelty cases off the shoulders of law-abiding taxpayers. It's time for residents to unite and make certain that animal cruelty is no longer tolerated in the Granite State. It's time to support SB 569-FN.



SB 569-FN Has Been Gutted - Residents Must Act Now.

SB 569-FN passed the Senate with a strong majority vote and bi-partisan support. Unfortunately, following the two public hearings held by the House Environmental and Agriculture Committee, the Committee adopted a shortsighted and potentially unconstitutional amendment that not only completely guts the bill, stripping it of its original intent, but also weakening NH's currently unjust and inefficient animal cruelty laws. Click here for amendment details. Residents can prevent the full House from passing SB 569-FN with that amendment attached, but we must act now.


Deadline: May 2nd - 7:30pm


1. Call Your House Representative

While emails are sometimes helpful, calls are essential in this case. Please be sure to call your house representatives and kindly urge them to vote no on the House Committee's Amendment and then vote yes to support the bill without the amendment. Many numbers listed are personal, so please be sure to call during appropriate hours.


Find your Representative(s) here.


Example: "Hello Representative [Rep. name], I am [your name] from [town], NH. You will soon vote on animal cruelty bill SB 569-FN. I'm reaching out to kindly ask that you vote no on the House Committee Amendment, then vote yes to support the bill without the amendment. The amendment does not only gut the bill, but would weaken existing law and is opposed by the New Hampshire ACLU. Thank you."








Updates


Update 2/20/18: On February 20th, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources passed SB 569-FN, by a vote of 4-0. The bill as introduced was passed with amendment (2018-0720s), which changes the limit of 'breeding females' within the 'commercial breeder' definition, from the bill's original 5 breeding females to 7, and also clarifies a that a 'breeding female' means an unspayed female dog '12 moths of age or older', kept or maintained for the purpose of breeding and selling the dog's offspring. The amendment also defines a 'pet store', and additionally clarifies that 'pet vendors' include animal rescue facilities, animal shelter facilities, brokers, commercial kennels and pet stores.

Update 3/08/17: SB 569-FN was amended by the Senate and passed by a vote of 19-5 on March 8th. That vote unfortunately includes a vote against the bill, by cosponsor Sen. Giuda. The bill's intent has remained intact and only clerical corrections, minor clarifications, and slight changes as a compromise following opposition feedback were made. The primary changes includes another update to the 'breeding female' definition to, 'an unspayed female dog, 24 months of age or older kept or maintained for the purpose of breeding and selling the dog’s offspring.' It was Sen. Birdsell that introduced that amendment and pushed for the age increase from 12 months to 24. While that is not ideal, as irresponsible breeders most often breed a female dog at their first heat cycle, which for many breeds is about 6 months, with some as young as 4 months (and up to 2 years for certain large breeds), the Senate adopted the amendment with a voice vote of approx. 22-2. Unfortunately, even after the amendment she wanted was adopted, Birdsell voted against the bill. (March 8th, roll call found here).

Update 3/20/18: On March 20th, the Senate Finance Committee voted 4-2, approving the $200,000 appropriations portion of the bill. Those appropriates will fund the hiring of two new inspectors for the NH Dept. of Agriculture to conduct inspections of those in the business of breeding, selling, rescuing and sheltering animals. (Roll Call: Sen. Reagan (R-Deerfield), Senate President Morse (R-Salem), Sen. Feltes (D-Concord), and Sen. D’Allesandro (D-Manchester), all voted in favor. Sen. Daniels (R-Milford) and the bill cosponsor Sen. Giuda (R-Warren) voted in opposition. The Committee also unanimously passed an amendment clarifying that a dog that is bred prior to reaching the age of 24 months shall be considered at 'breeding female'.

Update 3/22/18: The full Senate voted for the final time on SB 569-FN on March 22nd, the bill was passed as amended with a strong majority voice vote.

Update 4/18/18: The House Environment and Agriculture Committee completed two full public hearings on April 4th and April 11th. Following the hearing on April 11th, Chairman O'Connor discussed an amendment he has drafted for the bill. The House Committee had two work sessions to discuss the bill and his amendment on April 17th and April 18th. The bill will likely be voted on by the Committee this week or next, followed by the Full House.

Update 4/29/18: The House Environment and Agriculture Committee attached an amendment not only completely gutting SB 569-FN, but weakening current law. Click here for details.


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