Yesterday, in the company of three adorable puppies whose mother had endured the misery of a Wolfeboro mansion that doubled as the nation’s most unusual puppy mill, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced his support for comprehensive reforms to strengthen the state’s animal cruelty laws and update its commercial breeder regulations.
At the Wolfeboro property, 84 Great Danes had been living in a mansion that looked grand on the outside but was rotten on the inside. Animal waste covered the walls and floors, remains of raw chicken parts were strewn about, and the smell of ammonia hung thick in the air. Some of the dogs had been confined in cages. Many were riddled with infections, open sores and cuts, and were in extremely poor health. Some had irritated eyes, made bright red or swollen shut like human boxers who had taken too many hits in a long fight.
Many of the dogs have a long road ahead to full recovery, but they are all now safe and caregivers are enjoying the experience of seeing their individual personalities emerge. Almost every day is better than the one prior, and the dogs are enjoying a variety of toys and enrichment activities, including obstacle courses and scavenger hunts at their temporary shelter.
Gov. Sununu, who pledged his full support for stronger animal cruelty laws, is also aware of and will address the enormous financial burden placed upon taxpayers and non-profit animal welfare organizations that care for animals seized in cruelty investigations. The governor’s executive order directs authorities to begin “determining possible funding sources for animal-cruelty related costs.”
We estimate that care for the Great Danes, by the time the case runs its course, will cost The HSUS half a million dollars, even though our organization has long warned lawmakers and citizens about the evils of puppy mills and demanded policies to prevent these animal crises from developing. The HSUS is holding the animals at an emergency shelter, and the trial against the home owner is not slated to begin until October, due to a delay instigated by the defendant’s lawyer. Without laws in place to provide for such expenses, the cost of caring for animals seized in cruelty cases during lengthy court proceedings is borne by taxpayers or, in this case, a non-profit animal protection organization. The costs should be borne, instead, by the individuals directly responsible for the mistreatment of animals. The current situation puts the rescuers in a position of enormous financial risk, and can bankrupt organizations that rush in to help.
“Animal cruelty will not be tolerated in New Hampshire,” Sununu said, adding that he would revamp the Governor’s Commission on the Humane Treatment of Animals, making it easier for the commission to recruit members, as well as expand their duties to include tracking and promoting current legislation. “I look forward to working with the commission, advocates and legislators to pass commonsense legislation that protects animals, ensuring that the type of situation that took place in Wolfeboro never happens again,” Sununu said.
Under current law, the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture licenses breeders who sell 10 litters or 50 puppies in one year. Breeders that are still selling many dogs but fall below the threshold are not regulated, leaving the door open for unsanitary and dangerous environments for animals and people. State Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, intends to introduce legislation in the 2018 session to redefine what constitutes a commercial breeder and to mandate that all commercial breeders be inspected on an annual, unannounced basis.
We applaud Gov. Sununu and an array of state lawmakers, including Sen. Bradley, for promising to lead the effort to ensure that cruelty such as these dogs endured is never again repeated in New Hampshire. It will be important for the people of the state to remind lawmakers that policies are overdue and that the lessons of this incident should not be squandered and the dogs’ plight never forgotten.