A New Hampshire legislative committee said Friday that wildlife officials must gather more public comment on a proposal to expand the trapping rules for snowshoe hares.
The wild rabbits are later released by sporting clubs to be chased by hunting dogs for training purposes and competitive field trials. The proposal would increase the number of permits allowing people to trap the rabbits from six to 10, and extend the season for capturing. The current rule has been in place since 2007.
Animal rights organizations are trying to discontinue the practice and have said they consider the practice to violate the state's animal cruelty law.
"These animals are basically frightened to death. They die of shock," said Linda Dionne, president of the Voices of Wildlife in New Hampshire.
A message seeking comment on the proposal was sent to the New Hampshire Trappers Association.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission voted to approve the proposal in May. But the legislative committee charged with approving all administrative rules issued a preliminary objection to the rule.
David Patch, the commission's vice chair, said there are opportunities for public comment at every commission meeting. He said he did not recall strong opposition to the rule change.
Patch said there are only five sporting clubs in the state that engage in the practices, so the expansion wouldn't impact the population size of snowshoe hares in New Hampshire.
Paul Sanderson, legal coordinator of the wildlife department, said that the existing rules remain in force and the rulemaking proceeding continues.
"They've sent us back to get more information," Sanderson said. "So, what we would have to do is prepare all the comments and bring it back to the commission to get further guidance from them."
Sanderson notes the commission will hold public hearings and give time for online comments before the committee reviews the proposal again on July 19.
A N.H. Fish and Game video on trapping: