In March, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed HB 605, which makes it a felony to possess “animal fighting paraphernalia,” generally any objects or tools used to train animals to fight. To be guilty, a person must also have “intent to engage in or otherwise promote or facilitate such fighting.”
HB 605 gives courts a fair amount of leeway in determining what qualifies for charges under the bill. The bill provides several examples of animal fighting paraphernalia, including springpoles, breaking sticks, and unprescribed veterinary medicine.
A springpole is something a dog can grip attached to the end of a spring. The spring provides resistance while the dog tugs.
A breaking stick is inserted behind a dog’s molars to break open a dog’s bite during a fight.
It is already illegal to participate in animal fighting in New Hampshire.
HB 605 now heads to the Senate.
A necessary tool for law enforcement?
Supporters of HB 605 argue that it is very difficult to prosecute animal fighting in New Hampshire unless law enforcement officers catch an individual at a fight.
The New Hampshire chapter of the Humane Society of the United States says this is a loophole in New Hampshire law that allows dogfighters and cockfighters to stay in business.
“New Hampshire’s proud culture of private property rights and extensive tree coverage makes it an advantageous environment to those who participate in this gruesome activity to operate undercover. The last prosecution of dogfighting in New Hampshire was in 2003, which is not an indication of the lack of animal fighting in the Granite State but rather the lack of an enforceable law.”
HB 605 would close that loophole by allowing prosecution for other evidence of animal fighting.
A tool to prosecute lawful dog trainers?
Opponents of HB 605 argue the bill is so vague that it could allow lawful dog trainers to be prosecuted.
Springpoles may simply be a toy for a powerful dog. A breaking stick is a safety measure for any household with multiple dogs.
Weights, treadmills, and other training tools may all be used to prepare a dog for an athletic competition.
According to the American Dog Breeders Association:
“Many of the items described as ‘animal fighting paraphernalia’ are used by dog owners for conditioning of dogs for legitimate lawful canine athletic sports. The ADBA’s and UKC’s sanctioned event of weight pulling demands that the dog be conditioned to prevent injury to the dogs.”
Opponents therefore argue a felony is too steep a penalty when courts have leeway to determine what qualifies as “animal fighting paraphernalia” as well as the intentions of a dog owner.