by Sue Lavalla
There is an upcoming hearing on HB 1498 which is an Act repealing dog licensing requirements. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Cohen, Merr 6, Rep. DeLemus, Straf 1 and Rep S. Tremblay, Rock 3. The hearing will be on January 12, 2012 at 11:35 am in LOB 301 with the Municipal and County Government Committee.
While at first glance, this bill seems advantageous, you will need to sit down and really read the whole bill to understand the consequences to dog and cat owners of NH. Basically, this bill is repealing the requirement of city/town licenses. Sounds like it will save you money, right? Not at all, because instead of licensing your dog/cat with the city, your vet has to pay a $4 fee for each blank rabies certificate they purchase. Your vet must then report to the state veterinarian quarterly with a report of number of rabies vaccines issued, along with name and address of owners and number of rabies tag issued. So, instead of a $6-$10 fee (depending on your city or town) for a license, you will now be paying an additional $4 to your vet for the rabies certificate, plus any overhead the vet’s office now needs to charge because of ordering extra blank certificates and the time involved in reporting quarterly. So, probably more money (or a break even) from your pocket because of vet charges, not to mention the problem of good vets being in high demand and those vets now having to take time away from office hours to complete the quarterly reports. And that doesn’t even factor in the extra time and expense of the state vet’s office as they will have to compile aggregate statistics of animals vaccinated and publish the same quarterly on the website.
But HB 1498 will not just cost us, as animal owners, money – it’s going to mean a large loss of revenue for cities and towns. If you read the fiscal notes at the end of the proposed bill, the Dept. of Agriculture, Markets and Food estimates a decrease in local revenue by approximately $724,437, as well as $335,000 decrease to companion animal fund and a $83,750 decrease to veterinary diagnostic laboratory fund. Which, in the long run, means extra expenses to animal owners as that loss of revenue to local municipalities from license fees has to be “recouped” somewhere, whether it’s in increased taxes or loss of programs. Additional revenues will also be lost because commercial kennels will not be required to license their dogs (there is still some uncertainty as to whether the intent of the bill’s sponsors were to stop all state commercial kennel licenses or just the license fee they have to pay to their respective city/town for each dog). There would also be no requirement of licensing of guard dogs as HB 1498 repeals all of RSA 466:46-54 relative to the guard dogs in commercial establishments. This means there are no provisions for licensing the guard dogs, no provisions for prior approval by city or town for guard dogs on premises, no provisions for the humane treatment of guard dogs as well as no provisions for proper restraining devices for pubic safety or notification of the guard dogs to local fire departments and other agencies that may need emergency access to the property. So not only will there be a loss of revenue, but public safety and emergency personnel’s safety is at risk.
Two other major problems with this proposed bill is the removal of RSA 466:6 and RSA 466:1(d) RSA 466:6 concerns group licenses. Right now the law states that if you have 5 or more dogs (but do not fit definition of commercial kennel, i.e. sale of 10 or more litters or 50 or more puppies within a 12 month period), you can apply for a group license from your city/town for a $20 fee. Because HB 1498 proposes to repeal this section, there will be no provisions for hobby breeders, as well as allowing cities to start setting up limits on the number of animals anyone may have. No city, state or federal government should have the right to be able to tell any citizen how many animals they can have. This is a civil liberty provided to us, and while certain groups would like it to change, it has been proven unconstitutional in other states. That doesn’t mean NH would not try – and if it does, there’s the added expense for additional hearings on that matter.
466:1(d) deals with protection of personal information. The way the bill is written now, “no dog registration, information or lists can be sold, rented, transferred or otherwise made available in whole or part”, “directly or indirectly” to anyone. Animal rights groups cannot come into the city/town clerk’s office looking for lists of dog owners to harass which is a big safety net for all animal owners. Not all AR groups are truthful or act legally and to open the door for any of them to obtain information about NH citizens should not be even considered.
Please take the time to read the proposed bill at the following link: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1498.html
Contact your legislators (you can find a list of legislators, as well as ways to contact them at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/housemembers.html) to voice your opposition to this Bill, send this on to your breed clubs and/or other animal friends and come to the hearing on January 12, 2012.