On 6/18/10, the Keene Sentinel printed an article about three animal hoarding cases involving animals surrendered to the Monadnock Humane Society. The reporter had contacted Dr. Gary J. Patronek who made the following comment:
“Without specific language in the laws clearly defining substandard conditions for animals to live in, the prosecution of hoarders can be extremely difficult unless very obvious cruelty is taking place, Patronek said.
New Hampshire law addresses physical abuse such as cruelly whipping, negligent transportation, overworking of animals and negligently depriving animals of care, sustenance or shelter. The negligence charges can be very difficult to prove.”
We felt that statement was an inaccurate reflection on New Hampshire’s animal cruelty laws and sent a letter to the editor to that effect. Below is the body of our letter:
The Sentinel’s recent article about animal hoarding was a welcome change from the normal sensational coverage that these cases usually generate. Stephanie Frommer and the Monadnock Humane Society are to be applauded for their response — concern for both the animals and humans involved.
However, I do take issue with Dr. Patronek’s, VMD, statement about New Hampshire’s animal cruelty laws. New Hampshire laws do address the need for adequate care and specifically includes “acts or omissions injurious or detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of any animal” in the definition of cruelty. Performance (outcome based) standards are much more effective than trying to create specific, set requirements. Just as people are different, so is each dog – each with different requirements for space, exercise and upkeep.
These cases show that New Hampshire animal protection laws work — now, the mental health system in New Hampshire is challenged to show that it works. Studies have suggested that animal hoarding may be a symptom of one of several mental illnesses — delusional disorder, attachment disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, or dementia. These animal owners need help and, hopefully, they will get it.