Taking a bite out of crime: NH panel hears dog-related bills

Associated Press
Published: 1/28/2022 9:41:25 PM
Modified: 1/28/2022 9:40:10 PM

CONCORD — Man’s best friend or foe? A New Hampshire House committee heard testimony Friday on legislation portraying dogs as crime victims or perpetrators, depending on the bill.

One proposal would make it a misdemeanor for dog owners to leave the scene of an attack after their dogs injure someone without providing their names to the injured parties. It was inspired by a dog biting an 11-year-old boy at Clough State Park in August, said Rep. Keith Erf, R-Weare.

“After the attack, the parent attempted to obtain the information of the owner, who refused to provide it and then attempted to leave the scene,” he told the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

While police were able to issue a citation under a state law regarding vicious dogs, there was no law against leaving the scene, said Erf, a sponsor of the legislation. He said an amendment being offered by the Weare police chief would model the bill after existing law prohibiting people from leaving the scene of a car accident that causes injury.

Dog Owners of the Granite State, which represents pet owners and is affiliated with the American Kennel Club, opposed the bill. President Angela Ferrari said the wording was too vague and that the penalty should apply only in cases of dog bites or serious bodily injury.

“That would clarify what an injury is, so it just couldn’t be considered a scratch or some emotional harm from a dog that was barking aggressively at somebody,” she said.

Ferrari also spoke against a second dog-related bill. Under current law, it is a felony to intentionally poison a dog. The proposal would repeal that provision while adding sections to the state’s animal cruelty law to make it a misdemeanor to negligently poison a dog or any pet, domestic animal or wildlife in captivity and a felony if the poisoning is done knowingly.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brian Sullivan, D-Grantham, called it a housekeeping bill meant to move the provision about poisoning dogs to the correct section of the criminal code. But Ferrari and some lawmakers on the committee suggested that the new misdemeanor offense was too harsh.

“If I were to have a spill of antifreeze in my driveway and the dog next door came over and licked it because it does taste sweet and poisoned themselves, would I be eligible for potential prosecution?” asked Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown.

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