The Death of NH's Animal Cruelty Bill: Part IV, Breeder Licensure
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.
Current Commercial Breeder Definition Contributes To Cruelty
The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture (DOA) only regulates and inspects dog breeders who have a Commercial Breeder license (AKA 'Commercial Kennel'). It is the definition of a Commercial Breeder in NH law that determines which breeders must have that license.
Current Commercial Breeder: A breeder who transfers/sells 10 or more litters or 50 or more puppies in one year. (RSA 437:1, II)
The DOA currently determines a breeder's number of sales based on how many health certificates are sent to them, as a certificate is required for each puppy sold. However, the DOA doesn't review certificates upon receipt, irresponsible breeders do not submit them, and unlicensed breeders are not required to.
Therefore, to determine if a breeder must be licensed under current law, the state must search through thousands of papers to locate those certificates, which are difficult to find or are never obtained in the first place.
That incredibly high threshold and inefficient process have led to the current regulation of a mere ~8 out of numerous NH dog breeders, as well as to 5 animal cruelty cases involving unlicensed NH breeders over the past two years.
Sen. Bradley Aimed To Solve That Problem With SB 569-FN
With appropriate definitions and efficient regulations in place, the breeders involved in the recent animal cruelty cases would've likely required licensure and inspection by the DOA; preventing the cruelty that occurred. At the very least, it would've presumably allowed the DOA to step in and end the animal's suffering sooner. Therefore, Sen. Jeb Bradley's bill included the following definitions:
Commercial Breeder: A person that keeps, maintains, or owns 7 or more breeding female dogs, or transfers 10 or more litters or 50 or more puppies in a one year. (SB 569-FN as Amended by the Senate, 437:1, V, P. 2, Lines 6-11)
Breeding Female: An unspayed female dog, 24 months of age or older kept or maintained for the purpose of breeding and selling the dog’s offspring. An unspayed female dog that is bred prior to reaching 24 months of age shall be considered a breeding female. (SB 569-FN as Amended by the Senate, 437:1, III, P. 2, Lines 1-3)
Those definitions would require the licensure and regulation of breeders who own 7 or more unspayed female dogs who are kept for the purpose of breeding and selling their offspring; removing the current reliance on health certificates that are not being submitted nor reviewed. Ownership of unspayed dogs can be confirmed via in-person viewing of the dogs, conversation with the owners, as well as the number of dog licenses/registrations with the town, and the purpose of selling offspring, via advertisements. For example, the unlicensed breeder and Defendant in the Wolfeboro Great Dane case had over 50 dogs licensed with the town, over 7 unspayed females, and sale advertisements.
Breeders Disregard Sale Requirement and Assert Senate's Bill Is Unfair
Many NH breeders, members of the American Kennel Club and their affiliate, the Dog Owner's of the Granite State, testified during public hearings that some residents do not spay their dogs due to health concerns. And they expressed umbrage over the fact that the Senate was basing the breeder licensing requirement on the number of unspayed females owned; utterly disregarding that the bill also required that those dogs were owned for the purpose of breeding and selling their offspring. Several, if not all of the breeders that testified did not own 7 unspayed females, let alone kept for the breeding and sale of offspring and therefore, the proposed law didn't apply to them.
The House's Long List Of Breeder Exemptions
The House members sitting in on the conference were, Rep. John O'Connor, Rep. Peter Bixby, and Rep. Howard Pearl, from the Environment and Agriculture Committee. They did not change the Senate's Commercial Breeder definition itself. Instead, they added a list of breeder exemptions. The House members proposed the breeder types below should not require licensure, nor regulation or inspection by the DOA. (House CofC Draft, May 14, 437:7, Pg. 4, Lines 7-13)
House Agriculture Committee's Proposed Breeder Exemptions From
Breeders of dogs for field work,
Breeders of dogs for drafting,
Breeders of dogs for guarding,
Breeders of dogs for working,
Breeders of dogs for herding livestock as defined in RSA 21:34-a, II(a)(4),
Breeders of dogs for hunting,
Breeders of dogs for participating in lawful conformation shows,
Breeders of dogs for participating in lawful obedience trials,
Breeders of dogs for participating in lawful field trials,
Breeders of dogs for participating in lawful agility events,
Breeders of dogs for participating in lawful hunts,
Breeders of dogs for participating in lawful mushing,
Breeders of dogs for participating in any other lawful dog event
And that have not transferred 10 or more litters or 50 or more puppies in any 12-month period
The House Agriculture Committee's proposal would not only essentially keep the current high sale threshold of 10 liters/50 puppies per year, but also unnecessarily list the exemption of nearly every type of dog breeder in existence, making NH's already ineffective law that much more unclear and unenforceable.
No Law Is Perfect - But It Must Be Enforceable
Some asserted that irresponsible breeders would ignore the Senate's proposed law and not apply for a commercial breeder license, deeming SB 569-FN futile. However, as Sen. Bradley has stated, "No law is perfect." It's unlawful to text while driving in NH, as is murder and yet, residents still commit those crimes. The fact that some may break them, does not nullify the importance of having enforceable laws in the first place.
Our current laws regarding the licensure of breeders are insufficient from a regulatory, cruelty prevention and enforcement standpoint. We must have laws that are clear and enforceable for the prevention of cruelty by the majority of residents, to provide tools for the DOA and law enforcement so they can help when cruelty occurs, and to also bring criminals who break those laws to justice.
According to the DOA, the Senate's version of SB 569-FN would lead to an estimated 40 additional licensed breeders known in NH (As Amended by the Senate, Following P.9, Fiscal Note, Methodology). An increased number of required licenses equals increased regulation and inspections, which in turn, increases cruelty prevention. The fact that the Senate's definitions removed the State's inefficient reliance on non-submitted certificates and replaced it with common-sense methods such as proof of unspayed females, breeding and sales, makes their proposal more enforceable, and certainly more sufficient than the House Agriculture Committee's approach by adding a list of exempt breeders to a current law that is already clearly not working.
Senate Makes A Compromise To Clarify Purpose of Selling Offspring
The Senate's definition of a 'Breeding Female' explicitly required that the female is kept specifically for the breeding and sale of her offspring. However, they acknowledged the concern that some owners don't spay their dogs due to health reasons or old age rather than breeding, or breed solely to participate in dog events rather than for the purpose of sales. Therefore, the Senate proposed the following adjusted definition as a compromise for further clarification and to ensure the House that those residents were protected. (Senate CofC Draft, 5/16/18, 437:1, III, P. 1, Lines 26-31)
Breeding Female: An unspayed female dog, 24 months of age or older and younger than 120 months of age, kept and maintained for the demonstrated purpose of breeding and selling the dog's offspring. An unspayed female dog that is bred prior to reaching 24 months of age shall be considered a breeding female. "Demonstrated purpose" may include, but is not limited to, advertising, electronic communication, business cards, public sales events, statements from purchasers, breed registry records, or sales receipts.
From Hope Of Compromise To Silence
Rep. Bixby and Rep. Pearl showed agreement with the above compromise. "I like the clarification on demonstrated purpose," said Bixby. Pearl added, "Now you're starting to think the right way."
Just when it seemed that there was hope for SB 569-FN, Rep. O'Connor unfortunately, did not share in their signs of agreement.
During the three days of conference, Chairman O'Connor, of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee, had not offered much perspective regarding the Commercial Breeder definition, other than to answer with a single, "Yes," when Bradley asked him if he wanted the Senate to broaden their breeder exemptions.
However, even when the Senate additionally offered to include the House's exemption for breeders of dogs bred for mushing, guarding, and herding livestock as defined in RSA 21:34-a, II(a)(4), (Senate CofC Draft, May 16, 437:7, P. 4, Lines 7- 13), it was not enough for O'Connor.
When pressed by the Senate for more reasoning behind his continued lack of agreement, O'Connor once again stated that the Senate's bill would've done nothing to prevent the Wolfeboro Great Dane case. At that point, Bradley pointed to his facts disputing that misconception, as he had previously done numerous times in the presence of O'Connor.
O'Connor then once again fell silent on the matter of the breeder definition, and his message rang through loud and clear; he was not interested in any compromises.