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Lawmakers Look to Tighten N.H. Animal Cruelty Laws

Todd Bookman/NHPR

State lawmakers are seeking to tighten commercial breeding regulations following a string of high profile animal abuse cases.

Senate Bill 569 would redefine what constitutes a commercial kennel, as well as create new inspector positions within the Department of Agriculture.

Prime sponsor Jeb Bradley--who represents the town of Wolfeboro, where dozens of Great Danes were seized last year--says the bill also makes it easier for municipalities to recoup costs.

“So not only is this beneficial to the animals that have been seized, but certainly beneficial to the taxpayers in a community that are experiencing these very significant cases,” says Bradley.

Under current statute, the definition of a commercial kennel includes people that own or transfer 10 or more litters of puppies, or 50 or more individual puppies, during a 12-month period. The proposal would add anyone who keeps five or more unspayed female dogs, with the intention of breeding and selling the offspring.

That five female dog limit matches Maine’s statute, while Vermont’s limit is three female unspayed dogs.

Bradley says New Hampshire’s relatively lax laws create a “loophole” that have allowed several cases of animal abuse to go unchecked in the state.

Under the plan, anyone who qualifies as running a commercial kennel would need to obtain a license from the state, and submit to biennial inspections.

The proposed bill also would allow the state to permanently take possession of seized animals if the owner fails to post a bond. That section of the bill raises due process concerns for the ACLU of New Hampshire, which testified that owners shouldn’t be able to have their animals permanently forfeited before a verdict is handed down in criminal court.

Other opponents say the measure is unfair to hobby breeders, and could penalize indigent animal owners.

The bill, though, has bipartisan support, the backing of the Humane Society, as well as the Governor’s Commission on the Humane Treatment of Animals.

“This animal cruelty issue we have in the state, let’s get it fixed,” said Patricia Morris, chair of the Commission. “Let’s start here.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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