New Hampshire - SB569

relative to animal cruelty.

Introduced

January 11, 2018

Description

SB 569 is a broad-spectrum bill encompassing several different issues. First, it will create several definitions not found in the current law. “Pet vendors” are defined as anyone “engaged in the business of transferring live animals or birds customarily used as household pets to the public, with or without a fee or donation required.” This broad definition reads as including anyone who sells any pet to the public, even if it’s only one. It arguably reads as it could include shelters and rescues as they certainly transfer pets to the public. Pet vendors are subject to licensing subsequent to inspections, a background check to be submitted to the FBI, $200 licensing fee, and inspections upon complaints from anyone however baseless. If a pet vendor’s license is revoked, ALL animals on premises, whether related to the business or personal pets, may be seized.

Under the Senate amendments, the pet vendor definition has been properly expanded to include animal rescues and animal shelters. The background check to the FBI has been removed as well. A license may be suspended or revoked at any time “if in the judgment of the department the conditions under which the license was issued are not being maintained.” The due process or opportunity to repair the conditions is not very clear, although the bill does provide that there must be a hearing. Complaints may still prompt an unannounced inspection. Also, now instead of instant seizure upon license revocation, the department may direct the licensee to relocate animals within 3 days to an approved location.

Under current House amendments, dog breeders that do not meet the commercial kennel license and who breed “for hunting; field work; drafting; and guarding, working, or herding livestock, as defined in RSA 21:34-a, II(a)(4); or participating in any lawful dog event, including, but not limited to, conformation shows or obedience trials, field trials, agility events, hunts, mushing” are exempt from the pet vendor licensing. Also, those who are licensed will not be subject to anonymous complaints as those will not be accepted. 

The bill newly defines commercial kennels as anyone with “5 or more breeding female dogs or transfers 10 or more litters or 50 or more puppies in any 12-month period.” A breeding female is “an unspayed female dog kept or maintained for the purpose of breeding and selling the dog’s offspring,” yet another overbroad and ambiguous term this legislation brings to the table. As no age is set, female puppies may be counted in this number. Nor is it clear who carries the burden to prove whether females are actually breeding females.

The Senate amendments changed the definition of breeding female to: “unspayed female dog, 24 months of age or older kept or maintained for the purpose of breeding and selling the dog’s offspring.” While the age has been clarified, it still is not clear who carries the burden of proving females are actually being used for breeding. Commercial kennel was also changed to: “means 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 any 12-month period.  "Commercial kennel" includes a person that keeps, maintains, or owns dogs on the same property as another person who also keeps, maintains, or owns dogs and the total number of breeding female dogs on the property is 7 or more.” 

Current House amendments have narrowed the definition of breeding female even further. Now a breeding female is “an un-spayed female dog kept and maintained for the demonstrated purpose of breeding and selling or transferring the dog's offspring, and which is in whelp or has produced a litter any time in the preceding 12 months.  An un-spayed female dog which has not produced a litter in 18 months shall not be considered a breeding female dog.”  

Finally, the bill seeks to create a cost of care bond for animals seized from a person charged with animal cruelty. Prior law charged cost of care only to the person CONVICTED of cruelty, upon said conviction. SB 569 would require anyone even charged with cruelty to animals to cover cost of boarding or even disposing of animals seized, with no real cap or limitation.  The only cap is $2000 per animal being held on appeal. Owners charged may be required to post bond set by the court every 30 days based on mere probable cause, or the “court may dispose of said animal in any manner it decides.” If convicted, the owner loses any excess funds, and the bill does not address reimbursing owners found innocent.

House amendments have removed the burdensome cost of care requirements, and instead will create an “Animal Cost of Care of confiscated animals and Inspections Study Commission” that will investigate the actual cost of care and appropriations needed. Members of the Commission will include legislators, the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, an individual from the Dog Owners of the Granite State, an individual to be appointed by the NH Federation of Humane Organizations, attorney general, and a member of the NH Veterinary Medical Association. 

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