Here’s an update on the legislation we’ve been following:
Passed the House and now in the Senate
HB 1309: AN ACT relative to transferring dogs, cats, and ferrets by animal shelter facilities.
From the House Calendar: Rep. Richard Gordon for Environment and Agriculture. This is a housekeeping bill to correct an omission that occurred during the re-write of RSA 437 (Sale of Pets) during the 2017-2018 budget process. The bill adds back the requirement that all shelter facilities have on premises a microchip scanner and shall maintain a file of recognized pet retrieval agencies.
Next Step: HB 1309 has been assigned to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
HB 1238: AN ACT relative to animal cruelty involving an equine colt.
From the House Calendar: Rep. Peter Bixby for Environment and Agriculture. The original bill sought to make those accused of animal cruelty, although not convicted, pay for the upkeep cost of confiscated animals based on an obsolete animal cruelty statute. The amendment replaces the entire bill and turns it into a housekeeping bill that eliminates this outdated statute that only pertains to colts less than 90 days old and moves the colt cruelty provisions into the modern animal cruelty statute under the Criminal Code, thereby making its enforcement and penalties consistent with other sorts of negligent cruelty.
Next Step: HB 1238 has been assigned to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Passed the Senate and now heads to the House
SB 569: AN ACT relative to animal cruelty and establishing a commission to study certain language applicable to the transfer of animals.
This passed the Senate on March 22 with several amendments. One raised the age of a “Breeding Female” to 2 years and a second changed the number of “Breeding Females” to 7 before the owner has to get a commercial kennel license. It also requires the town clerks to send the number of Group Licenses issued to the Department of Agriculture by June 1st. The “Cost of Care” section is still there although judges are now allowed to consider the owners income when setting the bond amount.
Next Step: SB 569 will go the House and be assigned to a committee.
HB 1385: AN ACT establishing a committee to study animal welfare in New Hampshire.
From the House Calendar: Rep. Stephen Darrow for Environment and Agriculture. This bill would create a committee of legislators to review and study animal welfare. Currently, there are other animal welfare bills making their way through the General Court with provisions that conflict with each. In addition, the Governor has convened his Commission on the Humane Treatment of Animals which is actively discussing the subject and have noted additional deficiencies within the animal statutes that are not currently being address. Due to the uncertainty of each respective outcome, the committee felt that Interim Study would be the best course of action in order to better define its objectives.
HB 1342: AN ACT relative to live trapping of wild rabbits and hares by sporting clubs.
From the House Calendar: Rep. James Spillane for Fish and Game and Marine Resources. During testimony in committee, it was determined that the Fish and Game Department is working with the state clubs to expand the live trapping of hares state-wide through the Fish and Game Commission. Interim study is the appropriate action to be taken while we see how the commission handles the issue. The committee will make recommendation, if needed.
Inexpedient to Legislate
HB 1231-FN-LOCAL: AN ACT relative to dog licenses.
From the House Calendar: Rep. Richard Gordon for Environment and Agriculture.This bill would have raised by $0.50 the dog license fee for seniors, those 65 years or older. The increase was requested solely by one town clerk who thought that the currently discounted dog license fee for seniors set in statute causes his or her office to receive $0.50 less of the normal $1 administrative fee for processing dog licenses. Since this is not true, the fee for seniors does not need to be raised.
HB 1394: AN ACT relative to animals in motor vehicles.
From the House Calendar: Rep. Dennis Fields for Criminal Justice and Public Safety. The majority of the committee feels this bill creates a liability problem. If a person cannot find the owner and the vehicle is locked and the animal in the vehicle cannot be removed by assistance not arriving in time or if a person or owner of the vehicle is not found, it could be a liability for anyone other than an authorized law enforcement or animal control officer to remove the animal. If anyone breaks in to remove the animal, the animal could get away and also could hurt someone. Who would be responsible for liability if someone else is injured? While this bill is well intentioned, the current law seems to be adequate.
HB 1414-FN: AN ACT relative to forfeiture fees regarding dog licenses.
From the House Calendar: Rep. James Belanger for Municipal and County Government. This bill changes the time to pay the town or city clerk for a $25.00 fine for failure to license a dog after notice of a violation from 15 days to 45 days. No testimony was received to identify a problem with the current 15 day limit and no abuses were identified. The committee didn’t feel any action to change current statute, which hasn’t changed since 2001, was needed.
HB 1723-FN : AN ACT relative to the reckless beating of animals.
From the House Calendar: Rep. Anne Copp for Environment and Agriculture. This bill has unintended consequences with grave results by making it a felony for an individual to cause the death of an animal through negligence, even for a first offense, or to cause harm to an animal unknowingly. Other bills were introduced this session that may better address this important issue, in particular, one that is now working its way through the Senate.
Laid on the Table
HB 1412-FN: AN ACT relative to cruelty to non-captive wildlife.
From the House Calendar: Rep. James Spillane for the Majority of Fish and Game and Marine Resources.The committee heard testimony from the public on this bill, which included many sportsmen’s groups, landowners, and animal activists. Although the minority of the committee believes that New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that do not have laws protecting its wild animals, the majority of the committee was unable to verify this information. The majority also reviewed RSA 644:8 (Cruelty to Animals), and it appears to address the cruel treatment of animals. The minority submitted an amendment and then withdrew that amendment. The majority still has many concerns with this bill such as not adequately distinguishing between captive and non-captive. For example, is a fish in a live well captive or is a chipmunk in a have a heart trap captive? The Fish and Game Department testified in writing that “this proposal would cloud, rather than clarify the manner of take.” The agency goes on to say that “this proposal is conceptually flawed , and is not capable of repair.” For these reasons the majority would ask that it be given more time so that these concerns, along with any others, can be thoroughly studied and vetted to eliminate the possibility of unintended consequences to the homeowners, landowners and sportsmen of New Hampshire.Vote 12-7.
Rep. Ellen Read for the Minority of Fish and Game and Marine Resources. The minority of the committee strongly believes that there are instances of cruelty to wildlife in New Hampshire, and that such cruelty should be illegal as it is virtually nationwide. The committee did not have the opportunity to vote on suggested changes to the bill, prepared by the Fish and Game Department, that would simplify this bill and ensure that all normal and otherwise legal activities, including hunting, fishing, trapping, and pest management, would be exempt from its provisions. We believe that this issue does not need further study, and that the department’s language is the solution that satisfies all stakeholders’ interests. In the event the majority’s recommendation is overturned, the minority intends to offer an amendment based on the department’s suggestions.