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New Hampshire pet bills are out; wildlife measure moves on

Associated Press
Published: 2/19/2020 10:15:18 PM
Modified: 2/19/2020 10:15:09 PM

CONCORD — It was a disappointing day for cats and dogs Wednesday when lawmakers rejected bills aimed at protecting both types of pets. But additional safeguards for wild animals were deemed worthy of a second look.

The House voted against bills that would have banned the declawing of cats, created criminal penalties for those who leave dogs outside without adequate food, and created a registry for those convicted of animal cruelty. But it gave preliminary approval to a measure that would prohibit deliberate acts of cruelty against any wild animal, fish or bird.

New York became the first state to prohibit the declawing of cats in July. Supporters of the New Hampshire bill argued that declawing amounts to painful mutilation of animals and is better characterized as “deknuckling” given that bone, tendons, nerves and ligaments are removed.

“Cats are born with claws. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not for us to decide whether that’s good or not,” said Rep. Charlie St. Clair, D-Laconia.

But opponents said the procedure is rare in New Hampshire and is sometimes necessary to prevent a cat from being euthanized.

Rep. Judy Aron, R-South Acworth, said a cat owner could develop an autoimmune disease that would make getting scratched by a cat dangerous to his or her health.

“Veterinarians told us cats can and do live very happy and normal lives and do not suffer as a result of this procedure,” she said. “It’s not just a matter of convenience. It’s a matter of health and safety for everyone involved.”

Lawmakers did not debate the other two bills, but the House voted to adopt written recommendations that they be defeated. Opponents said imposing additional requirements for dogs kept outside would unfairly target owners of state police canines and working farm dogs. They also said creating an animal cruelty registry that could subject someone to a “lifetime of public humiliation and scorn” for misdemeanor violations was disproportionate to the crime.

The wildlife bill, which the House voted to send to its criminal justice committee, would end New Hampshire’s distinction of being one of only five states that don’t criminalize cruelty to wild animals. Supporters said those who beat, torture or mutilate wild animals should face the same animal cruelty charges as those who harm domestic animals.

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