Lindsay Hamrick: Legislation better protects animals and taxpayers

For the Monitor
Published: 4/3/2018 12:10:14 AM

Over the past 18 months, New Hampshire has seen four large-scale animal cruelty cases involving dogs kept by residents who don’t hold a license to breed dogs but who are suspected of being commercial dog breeders. Dozens of these dogs have died or been victims of extreme suffering, and taxpayers and nonprofits have spent more than $1.5 million caring for these survivors while the state makes its case in the court system.

Dogs can suffer immensely at the hands of inhumane commercial breeders. They don’t receive adequate medical care or regular socialization with people in these settings and many of these dogs experience painful injuries and health conditions or deep trauma caused by the deprivation of basic social needs.

Weak animal protection laws make the state of New Hampshire more vulnerable to the occurrence of these expensive and heart-breaking situations. Thankfully, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley has introduced a bill that provides a solution.

With the backing of Gov. Chris Sununu, Bradley’s bill passed the state Senate in March with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill, Senate Bill 569-FN, has strong backing from the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, Animal Control Officers Association of New Hampshire, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, the N.H. Municipal Association, town select boards and animal shelters.

In two of the four cruelty cases, defendants reportedly moved from nearby states that have stricter regulations in order to breed a significant number of dogs without oversight. In the Granite State, they went undetected for months or years because the state’s definition of a commercial dog kennel makes existing laws nearly impossible to enforce.

If someone can have 84 Great Danes in a mansion or 58 German shepherds in a barn and not be licensed as a commercial kennel, there is a problem. SB 569-FN would simply adjust the definition of a commercial breeder to ensure oversight for dog breeders who have seven or more breeding female dogs, a definition shared by many other states.

SB 569-FN would save taxpayers money without creating new regulations. The state has always regulated commercial dog kennels, just as they’ve regulated animal care within animal shelters, in-home rescue organizations and pet stores, all of which must abide by the same basic standards under current law.

Bradley’s bill would also pass a “Cost of Animal Care” law. Currently, when suffering animals are removed from a person’s property – an act which can only be done with a search warrant and only by law enforcement – taxpayers and nonprofits are forced to shoulder the costs during the course of that person’s trial. The Cost of Animal Care law would give a judge the power to determine a reasonable amount for the individual to pay toward the animal’s care. That individual would also be given the option of surrendering the animals so they can be placed into loving homes.

The American Bar Association supports Cost of Care laws. On average, New Hampshire taxpayers and nonprofits spend almost half a million dollars each year caring for animals who have been seized by law enforcement. That responsibility should – at the very least – be shared by the person responsible for the crisis.

Over the past 10 years, the Governor’s Commission on Humane Treatment of Animals has studied this issue extensively and written two separate reports recommending a Cost of Care law as a solution to the issue.

These issues don’t need further study. The answers are clear for the animals and the taxpayers.

Senate Bill 569-FN will now head to the House of Representatives. Readers who support this common sense approach should contact their representatives and urge them to vote yes on SB 569-FN.

(Lindsay Hamrick is the New Hampshire state director for the Humane Society of the United States.)

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