LEGISLATIVE ALERT – ACTION NEEDED
UPCOMING PUBLIC HEARINGS
Friday, February 13, 2015
HB 624: – relative to animal care costs in animal cruelty cases
1p.m.House Environment & Agriculture Committee, Room 303 Legislative Office Building
HB 624: COST OF CARE BOND
In criminal cases when an animal(s) is confiscated due to animal cruelty charges, the bill sets up a pre-trial process whereby a civil court may order the owner of the confiscated animal(s) to post a bond which will cover the cost of caring for the animal(s). The bond will automatically renew every 30 days until the criminal trial is over, including any appeal period. If at any time, the owner is unable to pay the bond, the animal(s) will be forfeited. The caretaker can draw out of the bond “account” the actual expenses for the animal(s) care. It does NOT allow for the money to be refunded in cases where the owner is acquitted or the charges dismissed.
Current law requires anyone convicted of animal cruelty to pay for the cost of the animal(s) care. Some municipalities have a contract with the local shelter for care of confiscated animals and others make arrangements on a case-by-case basis.
DOGS opposes HB 624.
Our objections to this bill include:
Animal cruelty cases do not always end in a conviction. Inadequately trained enforcement officials can mistake an ill animal that is under treatment as a cruelty situation or a situation can be resolved with information rather than pursuing the judicial process.
If multiple animals or large animals are confiscated, the actual cost of care would be substantial. People who cannot afford to post a bond will lose their animals before the criminal case is concluded.
The person who has animals confiscated could undergo two different court cases; a criminal case for the cruelty charges and a civil case for cause to impose the bond. Civil and criminal cases have different burdens of proof. One could be found guilty of cruelty in the civil case and NOT guilty in the criminal case.
Anyone who files NH nonprofit incorporation paperwork, obtains zoning approval and secures the services of a licensed veterinarian can set up an animal shelter. No training or fiscal accountability is required.
The owner of the animal(s) has no control over how the animals are cared for or the cost of that care.
HB 624 Supporters Viewpoint
The bill was requested by HSUS. Supporters of the bill maintain that animal shelters and municipalities are often burdened with the high cost of care for animals during the disposition of the criminal case. Often, restitution for the cost of care is not paid by the convicted party. Law enforcement is reluctant to charge individuals or confiscate animals because of the high cost of animal care imposed on the municipality, thereby allowing cruelty to be unheeded.
ACTION NEEDED: This week, send a letter/email to members of the House Environment & Agriculture Committee requesting that the bill be voted “Inexpedient to Legislate”. Attend the public hearing either to testify or sign in opposed to HB 624. Share this information with colleagues and urge them to take action. For help composing your statement at the public hearing or letter/email, send a draft to Yvonne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please, copy Yvonne on your letter and we can remind the Committee of your concerns at the public hearing. Again, find the contact information for the House Environment & Agriculture Committee at http://new.nhdogs.org/legislation/legislative-committees/house-environment-agriculture-committee/