A Five-Part In-Depth Look Into the Final Three Meetings Leading to the Death of One of the Most Comprehensive Animal Welfare Bills in NH History
Following three meetings by the committee of conference, the attempts to find common ground within two versions of an essential animal cruelty bill ended with the Senate walking in one direction, the House in the other, and the bill laying dead on the table. This five-part series will provide a detailed look into the facts, the misconceptions, and the moments of victory and defeat, within the battle that led to the death of one of the most comprehensive animal welfare bills in NH history.
How It All Began
After a slew of horrific animal cruelty cases, which also tie into the health, safety and tax funds of NH residents, Senator Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) made it a mission to introduce a bill that would not only enhance animal welfare but also protect the citizens of the Granite State. With unwavering support from Lindsay Hamrick, NH state director from the Humane Society of the United States, and valuable insight from Chief Rondeau of the Wolfeboro PD, Sen. Bradley dove deep. Starting back in the summer of 2017, he studied previous and current animal cruelty laws, agriculture rules, applicable research conducted by various state agencies, and cruelty cases; from the facts of the case to the standpoint of law enforcement, prosecution, and the defense. Before even entering the State House, the bill went through an exhaustive compromise process during several stakeholder meetings, including with those who were in opposition, contributing to the well-balanced and extensively considered language of the bill, which was assigned the number, SB 569-FN.
Strongly Supported - To Utterly Gutted
SB 569-FN was endorsed by Governor Sununu and passed in March with a significant majority by the Senate. The Senate's version of the bill would have improved the efficiency of pet vendor regulations, enhanced penalties for cruelties causing the death of animals, and help alleviate taxpayers of the burden to cover thousands for the cost to care for animal victims seized in cruelty cases. The bill had strong support by the NH Assoc. of Chiefs of Police, NH Municipal Assoc., NH Federation of Humane Organizations, the HSUS, Animal Control Officers Assoc. of NH, the ASPCA, the Governor's Commission on the Humane Treatment of Animals (by majority vote), NH prosecutors, local animal shelters and humane societies, and had no opposition from the NH American Civil Liberties Union.
However, the House adopted an amendment to the bill earlier this month, which not only utterly gutted the Senate version, but would discriminate against people with a mental disorder, and weaken current animal welfare laws. Support of their version came from the NH Farm Bureau, the NH Veterinary Medical Assoc., who works with the Dept. of Agriculture, local breeders, and the American Kennel Club (AKC), as well as their affiliate, the Dog Owners of the Granite State (DOGS). Ironically, these entities all benefit from the breeding, sale or the use of animals.
House Support From A Corrupt Organization
The AKC, which makes a profit off all AKC certified dogs, not only consistently fights against animal welfare legislation across the nation, but also have a corrupt certification and inspection process. Numerous breeders involved in cruelty cases, such as De La Sang Monde, owned by Christina Fay, in the Wolfeboro Great Dane case, had AKC certified dogs. Mike Chillinski's kennel (MT), who bred and sold AKC certified malamutes, was found guilty of 91 counts of animal cruelty after law enforcement found dead dogs stacked on his property in 2011. 161 dogs were also found living in small feces-filled cages, and according to reports suffered from severe malnutrition and diseases. The AKC found Chillinski in compliance during their inspections in 2008 and 2009. On October 14, 2014, over 50 dogs were lawfully seized from Bleu Moon Cattle Dogs in Pearl River County (MS), owned by Lynne Hackeny (aka Lin Allen). According to reports, the dogs were standing and lying in feces, with no food and no water. The dog's paws were burned due to the ammonia from urine. The AKC found the facility to be"in compliance with AKC's care & condition policy," during an inspection on October 2nd, 2014. In December 2015, Lynne and her husband Miles Allen pleaded guilty to the animal cruelty charges filed against them. Yet, the NH House held the AKC's stance on SB 569-FN in high regard, which became all the more apparent during the Committee of Conference.
AKC show winner, 'Wild Bill', Feb 2006, followed by images taken during the seizure of Wild Bill and over 50 dogs from horrendous conditions at the Bleu Moon Cattle Dog facility in October 2014, less than 2 weeks after an approved AKC inspection. (click on the arrow to scroll)
Committee of Conference
After passing the two widely different versions of SB 569-FN, a small group of nominated members from the Senate and House sat down with the daunting task of bridging that enormous gap.
The Senate Committee Members
Sen. Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) - Bill Sponsor
Sen. Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth)
Sen. Avard (R-Nashua)
The House Committee Members
Rep. O'Connor (R-Derry)
Rep. Pearl (R-Loudon)
Rep. Bixby (D-Dover)
Referenced page numbers reflect those as written on the documents
SB 569-FN: Passed by the Senate
SB 569-FN: Passed by the House
SB 569-FN: CofC Draft Amendment by Senate (2018-2027s)
SB 569-FN: CofC Draft Amendment by House (2018-1976h)
House Prohibits Anonymous Cruelty Reporting
Current NH law allows the public to report animal cruelty anonymously, and SB 569 as passed by the Senate does not change that law, which has potentially been in place for over three decades. However, the House version explicitly prohibited anonymous reports to the Dept. of Agriculture, a request made by the AKC, DOGS, and other breeders who believe complaints trigger inspections and encourage unjustifiable scrutiny from neighbors. (Passed by the House, Pg 2, Line 32-34)
The AKC stated in their online alert against the Senate's bill that it, "fails to provide for redress of instances when written complaints were submitted only to harass complaint licensees."
During the hearing for SB 569 on February 6th, Sen. Avard stated, "Maybe there should be an amendment to get rid of neighbors, we hear a lot of complaints about them."
A humorous yet fitting comment because dealing with neighbors is a natural part of life, and with any issue that may occur between you and those who reside around you, the best you can do is ensure you're not breaking the law. In this case, that means the basic standards of care for animals.
During the committee of conference, Rep. Bixby stated the House removed the prohibition of anonymous reporting as a compromise. However, the language of their so-called compromise states, "The licensee [breeder/shelter/pet store], or his or her representative, may request and receive a copy of the full written complaint upon request" (1976h, Pg 2, Lines 31-32).
Rep. Bixby suggested perhaps they can ensure the person's name is removed from the report before it is sent to the licensee. However, even without the individual's name, the information within the complaint could easily reveal who reported it, thus losing anonymity and putting that person at high risk of retaliation. Such requirements punish whistle-blowers and deter individuals from reporting legitimate concerns of cruelty.
NH House Agriculture Committee's History of Ag-Gag Laws
This is not the first attempt by the NH House to create an anti-whistle-blower law. In 2013, a bill was introduced by Rep. Haefner from the House Agriculture Committee. HB 110 required that anyone who witnesses an act of cruelty to livestock or poultry report it to law enforcement within 48 hours.
Although under the guise of animal welfare, such 'mandatory/quick reporting' ag-gag laws create an unreasonable amount of time for reporting and also cut investigations short; significantly hindering the evidence gathered in cruelty cases, which are also linked to food and employee safety.
Fortunately, after being retained until 2014 and slightly amended, HB 110 was tabled by a vote of 329-15. However, it seems the House Agriculture Committee has not given up on such manipulative and counterproductive laws.
Personal Attacks On Those Who Report Cruelty
Sen. Bradley pointed out the fact that those who come forward and do the right thing by reporting animal cruelty are already enduring retaliation as it is, such as Marilyn Kelly and Annie-Rose Newel, two employees of the Defendant in the Wolfeboro Great Dane trial. Bradley stated, "Those two whistle-blowers, subsequent to their whistle-blowing, have been badgered." Ms. Kelly, Ms. Newel, as well as the Defendant's neighbor Roberta Boudman have all suffered public shaming and personal attacks, not only in the courtroom but on social media from breeders. And those include instances in which the Defendant had already been proven guilty and convicted for animal cruelty by the District Court, followed by the Superior Court. One can only imagine the harassment a whistle-blower would receive if such complaints were made public before the trial even began, or how detrimental that could be to an investigation still underway by the police.
The House Fails To Compromise
"Basically, as I understood what your bill did yesterday, you again undermined anonymous reporting, I find that egregious," said Bradley. "I talked to my police chief this morning in Wolfeboro; he said that is absolutely essential that there’d be anonymous reporting to law enforcement and the Dept. of Agriculture."
Unfortunately, the House members had absolutely nothing further to say on the matter, and although they had no legitimate argument for their stance, they failed to offer any meaningful compromise on the issue. It's truly deplorable that the House fought for something that was not part of the original bill, and would also weaken protections that current law has been providing for NH's animals and residents for years.
Part II of this in-depth look into the final three meetings leading to the death of SB 569-FN, soon to follow.