The last weeks have been very challenging. We have been inundated with 55 animals required to be held in protective custody. Though out of harm’s way, this is not how our beloved companions should spend the next weeks or months of their lives. Being held as evidence for the courts can last much too long – puppies grow up in kennels instead of homes; dogs, boarded indefinitely – cared for by strangers not knowing the warmth of a home.
Like every sector of society, we are governed by laws. What we can do and how we do it must follow the rules. These laws are meant to protect animals, setting standards of care and protect the greater community from the spread of a disease or risk as a consumer. Other people determine what constitutes the crime of cruelty or neglect and whether it is punishable as a misdemeanor or felony.
Each year, many who work in our industry travel to Concord to give oral or written testimony in our effort to improve the laws that govern animal welfare. We strive constantly to ensure that animals in our state are protected and their care is clearly defined to ensure their safety.
A critical bill is now being considered in the NH Legislature.This bill would strengthen protections for companion animals used for breeding, toughen the potential consequences for animal cruelty and ensure that the cost of caring for animals seized is shouldered by the defendant and not the agency responsible for their care. Senate Bill (SB 569-FN: Relative to Animal Cruelty) will first be heard in the Senate before moving to the House. It is imperative that we work diligently to pass this important legislation as it directly impacts our work here at the NHSPCA. We will keep you informed and ask for your help along the way.
The costs of caring for animals seized in a cruelty/neglect case are extraordinary. Often the animals are compromised and needs special medical care in addition to the extra time spent here in protective custody. Eventually, the court may impose restitution, but rarely is that restitution paid in full. Sometimes there is a reduced settlement, other times the costs are simply not paid, or there is no money to pay them. They probation department doesn’t have the resources to chase defendants, and thus we are left with the expense. As I write this, I am aware of nearly $171,000 in unpaid court ordered restitution that has, and never will be, collected. This is a tremendous burden on our work. SB 569-FN seeks to prevent this from happening, and would help expedite, not only the cost containment, but also our ability to rehome the animals taken in a case.
The German Shepherds, rabbits and a few animals from other cases remain in our protective custody for an unknown period of time, the costs rising daily, the ultimate financial burden unknown. For now, the financial liability is ours… the question is, whose should it be. It’s time to put the responsibility with the animal’s owners and not those caring for them.