Animal Rights

Citizens Count Editor

According to the 2017 rankings from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, New Hampshire falls 13th in the U.S. when it comes to animal protection laws. Some animal advocates want New Hampshire to have stricter laws.

This article deals primarily with protections for domestic pets, rather than protections for wildlife or animals in agriculture.

Animal rights laws in New Hampshire

Cruelty and neglect

In New Hampshire it is illegal to either negligently or purposefully harm an animal

  • If a person negligently harms an animal — for example by failing to provide shelter, water or food for the animal — that person is guilty of a misdemeanor for the first offense.  Any additional offenses are a felony.
  • If a person purposefully harms an animal — for example by torturing the animal — that person is guilty of a felony for the first offense.

Learn how to report suspected animal neglect or cruelty

Confiscation and costs of care

The state has the power to confiscate animals in cruelty cases.  New Hampshire’s animal cruelty law also allows police or licensed humane societies to break into a very hot or cold unattended motor vehicle if there is an animal inside.

If the owner of an animal is found guilty of cruelty, a judge may order the owner to reimburse the state for the cost of the animal’s care.  The court may also restrict the owner’s rights to keep animals in the future.

New Hampshire also has a "costs of care" fund, which helps reimburse cities and towns for the costs of caring for animals confiscated in those animal cruelty cases. The fund gets money from any fees or penalties imposed by judges in cruelty cases, as well as gifts and donations. 

Euthanasia

New Hampshire does not have any law restricting how pets can be euthanized. This means an owner may legally euthanize his or her own animal if they choose. 

Explore the related debate over physician assisted suicide

Licensing and vaccination laws

New Hampshire law requires all dogs, cats, and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies.  If an owner does not vaccinate his or her pet, he or she is guilty of a violation, similar to a speeding ticket. Any dog, cat or ferret being transferred or sold in New Hampshire has to have a certificate that shows they've been vaccinated. 

State law also requires dog owners to purchase an annual license from the municipality they live in.  Municipalities may also technically require a license for cats, but according to the New Hampshire Municipal Association, “few, if any, municipalities actually license cats.”  Failing to license a dog is a violation, and local authorities may seize an unlicensed dog.  If the owner does not license the dog within seven days, the dog is forfeit.

Money from annual dog licenses goes to the towns, the state veterinary diagnostic laboratory, and a fund to promote spay/neuter programs.

Laws regarding keeping pets on a leash or confined on private property (for example, behind a physical or electric fence) vary from town to town.

Other animal protection laws

Other New Hampshire laws:

Possible new animal protection laws

Animal advocates and legislators have proposed several ways to expand (or limit) New Hampshire laws protecting animals.

Registration of animal abusers

In 2016 Tennessee became the first state to create a registry of people convicted of animal abuse, similar to the registry of sex offenders.  Since then some states, counties, and municipalities have considered similar laws. An attempt to implement a registry in New Hampshire died in 2017.

Prohibition of declawing

There are counties and municipalities across the United States that ban the declawing of cats, but so far no state bill to ban declawing has succeeded.  However, California and Rhode Island both forbid landlords from requiring a tenant’s cat to be declawed.

Requirement to report animal abuse

Some states, including Maine, require veterinarians to report animal cruelty in certain circumstances.  Other states, such as Connecticut, require child protection workers to report if they suspect animal abuse is taking place in a family they are investigating.

Repealing dog licensing

Lawmakers in New Hampshire have introduced several bills over the years to repeal or limit dog licensing.  They argue that law enforcement resources are wasted every year enforcing dog licensing laws, which are already an unjustified tax on animal companionship.  Other lawmakers say there is no evidence police are spending time chasing down dog owners for late licenses.  License fees fund import efforts to control rabies and the stray animal population.

Euthanasia

In some states, only veterinarians, law enforcement officers, or humane societies are allowed to euthanize animals, and the methods used are strictly regulated. Supporters argue such laws help protect animals from painful or unnecessary deaths, while opponents counter that it can impose an unnecessary expense on pet owners.

There has been no recent attempt to change New Hampshire’s animal euthanasia laws.

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

 “New Hampshire should pass stronger animal protection laws.”

  • Animals, as thinking and feeling beings, should not be considered more like people than property in legal terms. While the law already recognizes this in some ways, such as by making it illegal to treat them cruelly or negligently, there are further steps New Hampshire could take to protect their natural rights to health and safety.
  • There is extensive evidence that anyone who abuses an animal is more likely to commit other violent crimes. Stricter laws and penalties to protect animals will empower law enforcement to identify and prosecute violent criminals before they escalate to crimes against humans.
  • Towns and humane societies spend thousands of dollars when caring for animals in animal cruelty cases, and often are not able to recover all of the costs from convicted animal abusers. A Costs of Care law would rightly move the responsibility of animal care from taxpayers to the guilty party.
  • Changing how New Hampshire defines a breeding kennel could make it easier for officials to inspect facilities with large numbers of dogs, and help prevent abuses like that seen in the notorious 2017 Great Dane puppy mill case in Wolfeboro.

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

 “New Hampshire should not add more animal protection laws.”

  • While we all love our pets, they are ultimately property, and should not have the same rights as humans.  Law enforcement should not spend any more resources on protecting animals instead of humans.  The time law enforcement spends enforcing dog licenses is already arguably a waste of police resources.
  • Many possible animal protection laws threaten the liberty of pet owners, who should have the right to determine the appropriate care for their animals.  For example, some owners may view declawing as the only alternative to surrendering a pet cat to a shelter; the state should leave that decision to the pet owner.
  • Costs of Care laws violate a defendant’s right to due process by forcing him or her to pay a penalty before being found guilty.
  • Stricter breeding laws may force good breeders out of business if regulations are too burdensome.  Because the demand for pets does not decrease, adopters may then turn to out-of-state sources.  New Hampshire has no control over how dogs are treated before they arrive in the Granite State, and adopters have little recourse if they later discover an animal they bought is sick.  Stricter laws will also not impact underground breeders that already disregard state laws.
  • Strict animal neglect laws can treat as a crime something that is often the result of mental illness. Animal hoarders, who are more likely to neglect their animals, should be helped through counseling and community support, not prosecution. 

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

Allows dogs off-leash on hiking trails in state parks and state forests, provided the dog is under the verbal or physical control of their owner or handler.

Signed by Governor

Makes it a felony to possess, transfer, or manufacture animal fighting paraphernalia with the intent to be present at, aid in, or contribute to such fighting. ˙The bill also requires the court to ban a person from possessing animals for at least five years if they have a conviction related to animal fighting.

Tabled in the House

Makes various changes to the regulations governing animal transfers and pet vendors. For example, this bill establishes a statewide animal transfer database to track animal transfers, licensed and registered pet vendors, shelters, and hobby breeders, animal health certificates and records, and municipal licenses of pets.

In Committee

Allows a facility dog or therapy animal to assist during testimony in a proceeding involving a sexual offense, child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.

Tabled in the House

Requires a court to ban a person convicted of felony animal cruelty from owning any animals for at least five years. This bill also requires the courts to hold a preliminary hearing within 14 days if animals are confiscated as part of an animal cruelty case, and gives a defendant just 14 days to post a bond to cover the cost of care for the animals when appealing a conviction.

Tabled in the House

Permits restaurant owners to allow dogs in restaurants.

Tabled in the Senate

Repeals the definition of "commercial kennel," and redefines "pet vendor" to specify a minimum transfer of twenty animals in a one-year period (which would cover the previous definition of "commercial kennel"). The Senate amended the bill to also authorizes the Department of Agriculture, Markets, and Food to make rules relative to the number of amphibians, reptiles, fish, or small mammals a person may sell and qualify as a pet vendor. The Senate amendment also establishes a position of accounting clerk to oversee pet vendors. Lastly, the Senate amendment requires dogs, cats, and ferrets offered for transfer to be accompanied by a health certificate.

Signed by Governor

Prohibits the transfer of rabbits younger than 8 weeks old. At the time of this bill's submission, rabbits can be transferred at 4 weeks.

Signed by Governor

Requires the Department of Business and Economic Affairs to prepare materials for businesses relative to service dogs, including a window decal and an informational brochure about what questions a business owner may ask regarding a service animal. The House amended the bill to shift that responsibility from the Department of Business and Economic Affairs to the Secretary of State.

Killed in the House

Requires anyone bringing an animal into a state park or state forest to clean up or remove all solid waste produced by such animal, subject to a $50 fine.

Signed by Governor

Legalizes hemp, and establishes a committee to study the federal guidelines on growing hemp. The Senate amended the bill to also include several changes to state animal cruelty laws. These include setting a 14-day deadline for courts to hold hearings in animal cruelty cases; allowing courts to require someone appealing an animal cruelty conviction to post a bond up to $2,000 to pay for animal care; banning those convicted of felony animal cruelty from owning animals for at least five years; and requiring that a health certificate with proof of vaccination accompany any dog, cat or ferret being transferred from one owner to another.

Killed in the House

Establishes a committee to study the authority and duties of the board of veterinary medicine.

Killed in the House

Allows a veterinarian to vary a rabies vaccine dosage based on the results of a rabies antibody titer test.

Signed by Governor

Adds the care and ownership of animals to the "tangible property" that must be addressed in a divorce settlement.

In Committee

Adds cats to the definition of a commercial kennel, which currently only covers dogs.

In Committee

Establishes a commission to study best practices for companion animal groomers.

Killed in the House

Establishes a committee to study allowing town clerks to accept proof of exemption from the rabies vaccine for the purpose of registering dogs.

In Committee

Increases the group license for dogs, adding $1 for every dog beyond six dogs.

In Committee

Establishes a Cost of Care Fund to assist municipalities caring for animals during animal cruelty cases. ˙The fund would receive revenue from $0.50 of every dog license, half of the fees collected from the registration for distribution of commercial animal feed and any court-ordered restitution for care in animal cruelty cases.

Interim Study

Permits recognized dog or sporting clubs to trap and possess wild rabbits and hares.

Interim Study

Establishes a committee to study animal welfare in New Hampshire.

Killed in the House

Allows a person to rescue a confined animal endangered by extreme temperatures if law enforcement has been contacted, a witness is present, and the individual reasonably believes that assistance will not arrive in time to prevent serious injury or death of the animal.

Killed in the House

Increases the amount of time that a person has to pay the $25 fee for failing to license a dog, from 15 to 45 days.

Killed in the House

Allows a person to be charged with felony animal cruelty if he or she "recklessly"—not just "purposely"—beats an animal. This bill also allows a person to be charged with felony animal cruelty if abuse causes the death of an animal.

Died in Conference Committee

Increases regulation of animal breeders, and appropriates $200,000 to the state veterinarian to enforce the new regulations. This bill also allows the courts to order a person charged with animal cruelty to post a bond to cover the costs of caring for a confiscated animal.  The House amended the bill to remove the $200,000 and instead study many of these issues, including the cost of care for animals during an animal cruelty trial.  The House and Senate failed to agree on a final version of the bill.

Signed by Governor

Prohibits wildlife trafficking, such as the sale of rhino tusks.

Killed in the House

Requires driver education to include the dangers of leaving animals, babies, and elderly persons in vehicles in extreme temperatures.

Tabled in the House

Makes it a class A misdemeanor to beat, cruelly whip, torture, or mutilate a wild animal not in captivity.

Killed in the House

Increases the fee for a dog license from $2.00 to $2.50 for dog owners who are over sixty-five years-old.

Signed by Governor

Allows a law enforcement officer to take an animal which is the subject of animal cruelty when he or she makes an arrest for animal cruelty. The House amended the bill to instead move an anti-cruelty law related to colts to the modern animal cruelty statute.

Signed by Governor

Adds fowl (such as chickens) to the law against livestock trespassing.

Signed by Governor

Exempts animal shelters from most of the legal requirements for animal transfers.

Tabled in the House

Makes it a class B felony to beat, cruelly whip, torture, or mutilate a wild animal not in captivity. This bill also requires the Lottery Commission to take protective custody of animals mistreated at facilities licensed to conduct live horse racing or dog racing. There is no live dog or horse racing in the state at this time.

Killed in the House

Establishes a statewide animal abuse registry which requires persons over 18 years of age convicted of cruelty to animals, or convicted of a comparable offense in another state, to register with law enforcement.

Killed in the House

Makes it a crime (unspecified misdemeanor for a first offense and class B felony for a second offense) to abandon animals at a foreclosed property.

Signed by Governor

Makes various changes to the rabies vaccination laws, as requested by the state veterinarian.

Killed in the House

Prohibits a defendant summoned for failure to license a dog from being arrested for failure to appear on such summons.

Signed by Governor

Establishes the crime of bestiality.

Killed in the House

Requires that certificates for rabies vaccination of dogs, cats, or ferrets be produced in duplicate, not in triplicate, and the town or city not be sent a copy.

Signed by Governor

Protects individuals donating pet food or agricultural feed from liability if the food is past its expiration date.

Killed in the House

Permits dog owners to provide city or town clerks with an emergency contact phone number when registering a dog.

Killed in the Senate

Makes various changes to the licensing of veterinarians and the regulations governing the transfer of animals.

Killed in the House

Makes it a crime to withhold appropriate hydration from certain animals, and establishes a committee to study harmful weather conditions for dogs.

Interim Study

Modifies the regulations regarding transporting dogs from out-of-state, and requires "animal importers" to register with the state.

Killed in the House

Repeals the requirement that dogs be licensed.

Killed in the House

Prohibits the possession, purchase, or sale of equipment used for animal fighting.

Killed in the House

Creates special "Friends of Animals" license plates to fund the companion animal neutering fund and the state veterinary diagnostic laboratory.

Killed in the House

Prohibits the trade of shark fins.

Killed in the Senate

Requires owners of companion animals to leash such animals in the presence of a service dog.

Killed in the Senate

Requires licensed animal transferors to keep certain records and submit copies of such records to the Department of Agriculture.

Killed in the House

Allows any person confiscating an animal in an animal cruelty case to file for reimbursement of animal care costs

Should NH pass stronger animal protection laws?

Comments

Mike Colligan
- goffstown

Sat, 10/05/2019 - 7:41pm

i can't comment on ear cropping, as i have no experience, but as a long time breeder of springer spaniels i have many years of experience with tail docking at birth. the pros far out weigh the non-existent negatives. several breeds have thin, easily broken tails. docking them at birth prevents later broken tails that need very expensive and needlessly needed vet amputation under anesthesia. even after the procedure many tails do not heal as tails have a very limited blood supply. it's a green party/peta attempt at forcing their extreme views down the throats of hundreds of years of experienced breeders at the cost of the dog's well-being.

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Issue Status

The 2020-2021 budget creates a "costs of care" fund to pay for caring for animals confiscated during cruelty cases. It also imposes a stricter definition of commercial pet breeders, who are subject to state rules and regulations.  

Rep. Kevin Maes has requested a bill related to animals in motor vehicles. Contact him to find out more. Other bills for 2020 will include a ban on declawing cat, a ban on selling dogs or cats in retail stores, and a registry for convicted animal abusers. 

 

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