Senator Bradley Receives NH Humane Legislator of the Year Award
NH Senator Jeb Bradley received a Humane Legislator of the Year award Thursday evening for his dedication and outstanding efforts towards enhancing penalties for egregious animal cruelties, strengthening regulations for commercial dog breeders and reducing the immense financial burden on NH taxpayers and non-profits to cover the cost of care for animals lawfully seized as part of cruelty cases.
The award was given by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who partnered with Bradley and worked tirelessly this year to make NH a safer place for animals and residents.
Presenting the award was HSUS NH state director, Lindsay Hamrick who stated, "I think there is a big difference between legislators who sponsor bills, to put their name on something and hope it passes, and what Senator Bradley does, which is an enormous amount of work."
"We held six stakeholder meetings before session even started, to try to get the entities to some kind of compromise," Lindsay continued, "and then he fought tooth and nail all during session this year to advocate for this issue, to advocate for local shelters and for these animals."
When receiving the award, Bradley introduced his new bride, Mrs. Karen (McNiff) Bradley, whom he wed this month. "Karen had to spend a lot of nights as I was bouncing off the wall, wondering what in God's green earth was wrong with some of my colleagues," he said.
Due to opposition from the House Environment and Agriculture Committee, his legislation did not make it through, leaving NH's insufficient animal welfare laws in effect.
The House Agriculture Committee aligned with the American Kennel Club (AKC) who makes a profit from breeders who certify their dogs with them and fight against even the most fundamental breeder regulations nationwide, buying into what Bradley referred to as 'tall-tails' that the legislation would put an end to breeding. The Committee additionally attached an amendment to Bradley's bill utterly gutting it, and also weakening existing animal welfare law.
"Unfortunately, the committee in the House where this bill went to, they used it as an opportunity to try and undermine some of the existing protections that are in NH law," He said. "So there was just no way to make a compromise..."
The event also highlighted the Conway Area Humane Society's recent 4000 ft addition, a wonderful accomplishment for the non-profit that survives solely off donations. Executive Director of the shelter, Virginia Moore stated, "The reason we are doing this is so we can expand our services for the animals and the people of the Mt. Washington Valley community."
The shelter provides numerous services to animals and residents, including adoption, animal surrender, emergency animal shelter for victims of domestic violence, a low-cost spay and neuter program, and more.
Additionally, the Conway Area Humane Society provides care for animal victims of cruelty, such as nine Great Danes from Wolfeboro, which cost the shelter approximately $60K to care for. Those dogs, one of them pregnant, were rescued before the seizure of 84 additional Great Danes from the same owner Christina Fay, on June 16th, 2017.
Christina Fay, an unlicensed NH breeder of AKC certified Great Danes, was found guilty of 20 counts of animal cruelty by a Superior Court jury in May. Charges included the deprivation of sanitary shelter and necessary care, including the inadequate treatment of open wounds, diseases, and other ailments. Based on Ms. Fay's own trial testimony, a least 7 Great Danes died while living in her deplorable mansion before the seizure took place.
NH breeders must sell 10 liters or 50 puppies a year to require licensure by the Dept. of Agriculture, an inefficient law that has led to the current regulation and inspection of only approximately 8 out of numerous known breeders in the state. Meanwhile, shelters like the Conway Area Humane Society, who offer valuable services off donations, are subject to state licensure, regulation, and inspection. An inconsistency and dire problem that Bradley, the HSUS, the NH Chiefs of Police and several others aimed to resolve.
As for the 84 Great Danes, Hamrick stated it has cost the HSUS $3Mil to care for them at the emergency shelter they created specifically for the dogs, noting that the organization spent fewer funds assisting with the seizure of 300 dog-fighting dogs a few years ago, referring to that as a testament to the care the Danes needed.
If the HSUS had not covered that cost, it would've fallen on the town of Wolfeboro, and thus taxpayers or local shelters, draining them of their resources, which is something that occurs all too often in NH, and that Bradley's legislation would've also helped prevent with it's proposed cost of care law.
Hamrick pointed out that the Great Dane case was one out of 5 recent NH cruelty cases involving unlicensed breeders. The Monadnock Humane Society (Keene) has been housing about 52 Labrador Retrievers lawfully seized from an unlicensed breeder in Marlborough on July 10th. According to reports, the Labs were suffering from injuries including those from overexposure to their excrement. Caring for the dogs has cost the shelter approximately $50K. They've been forced to close down all their other programming and refer community animals to other shelters.
Multiple German Shepherds were lawfully seized from two properties of an unlicensed breeder in Alexandra and Bristol in December, following dreadful fires that took the life of 38 dogs, as well as other Shepherds found living in subzero temperatures. The surviving dogs have been cared for by NH SPCA (Stratham), costing the shelter over $200K.
"We clearly have a problem," said Hamrick. "Not every cruelty case involves unlicensed breeders, but when you have 5 in a small state like NH in 2 years, there's more that we could be doing to prevent what's happening."
And she remains committed to doing just that. "Even though we didn't get it over the finish line, we have raised so much awareness about the need for these changes, and we look forward to being back in 2019 to continue that work," she said.
And despite the headbanging frustration Bradley described he went through this year, he also made it clear he has not given up on this vital cause. "I'm gonna be back at it next year, provided that you send me back to Concord, so thank you very much for that," Bradley joked.
Senator Bradley is a candidate in the primary election on September 11th. He's the current Senate majority leader, dedicating almost ten years in the Senate and 12 years in the House.
Bradley was also named Legislator of the Year by the NH chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2017, and also received the 2015 Distinguished Advocacy Award, granted by the American Cancer Society to those who show a commitment to cancer-related public policy advocacy.
With his experience and extraordinary advocacy for NH residents and animals, as well as his demonstrated willingness to compromise, as long as residents get out to their polling places, one can't imagine a shortage of votes for him on the Republican ballot.
Bradley shared that when first advised he was receiving the award in April, he told Hamrick he wanted to hold off. "I said, you're not giving it to me until I get the legislation passed, so I'm not sure I really deserve it," he said. However, any of his colleagues, volunteers or residents who witnessed his efforts this year know without a doubt, he most certainly earned it.
And despite the fierce challenges this year and still ahead, he has vowed to do all he can for us and our animals in 2019.
"I'm a big football fan," Bradley said. "Sometimes you just have to punt and come back..."