As leaders of our non-profit organizations, we are committed to the mission of animal welfare in the Granite State. Our programs are vast and include reunification of stray animals with their families, a safety net for pets who need to find new homes, free boarding for pets of those fleeing domestic violence, spay and neuter services for the community, and to serve as a respite for animals rescued from neglect and cruelty. We take this mission seriously and we are grateful for the support of our communities who fund the majority of our work.
In December of 2017 and January of last year, the New Hampshire SPCA, located in Stratham, assisted law enforcement with the rescue of 36 German shepherds from an unlicensed breeder with facilities in Bristol and Alexandria. Dozens of dogs and puppies had already tragically perished in a fire at one unregulated building and others were found freezing in a barn. Under New Hampshire law, animals are property, and thus must be held for the duration of criminal animal cruelty trials unless the defendant is willing to surrender the animals so that they may find new, loving homes.
In July of 2018, the defendant in this case was found guilty of animal cruelty. In order to retain ownership of the dogs, and thus prevent us from finding these dogs adoptive homes, the defendant was ordered to pay a $70,000 bond. Seven months later, the defendant has not paid the bond and the dogs remain in custody, costing our organization over $300,000.
In July of 2018, the Monadnock Humane Society, in Swanzey, assisted law enforcement with the rescue of 52 Labrador Retrievers from an unlicensed breeder in Marlborough in which puppies were found living in their own waste. We are still waiting for the trial in that case, almost seven months later, despite a New Hampshire law that requires that cruelty cases in which animals who are being held must receive priority on the court calendars. The care of the dogs has cost our non-profit organization almost $100,000.
For years, the non-profit animal shelter community has stepped in to care for animals rescued by law enforcement. With our talented staff, volunteers, and veterinarians, we are well positioned to provide the behavioral and medical rehabilitation that these victims deserve but we can’t continue to bear the financial burden alone.
This year, Senator Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro, has introduced two bills to prevent animal cruelty. Senate Bill 161 would ensure that any animal shelter, rescue organization, pet store or breeder who transfers 20 or more dogs or cats in a year, would be licensed by the Department of Agriculture, ensuring that those entities meet the basic animal care requirements under existing law. Licensing and inspections can be a strong tool in the prevention of animal cruelty. Senate Bill 77 would ensure a preliminary hearing take place within 14 days of the legal seizure of animals and that an appeal bond ordered by the court upon conviction be paid within 14 days, preventing animals from being held up in legal limbo.
This bill would provide an opportunity to discuss with the court the health and welfare of animals held for long periods of time and would set a minimum ban on animal ownership for abusers convicted of egregious cruelty.
Our cases are only two of five such cases seen in the Granite State in just two and a half years. The Granite State’s weak laws are a haven for those hoping to fly under the radar. Please contact your state senator to urge their support of SB 77 and SB 161. The animals are depending on us.
Lisa Dennison, Executive Director, New Hampshire SPCA
Kathy Collinsworth, Executive Director, Monadnock Humane Society
As submitted to Seacoastonline.com on February 7, 2019