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Why Dogs Need Shelter

Under our current law, an old trash barrel, a cardboard box, and a discarded refrigerator are all legal shelters for dogs. The current definition of necessary shelter , included in our animal cruelty statute (RSA 644:8) has no requirement for a doghouse, no requirement for bedding, no requirement for drainage or sanitation of a dog's living area.

Our current standard for shelter is so vague that it is open to widely varying interpretation by animal control officers and law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges. In order to remove a dog from an inadequate shelter, an ACO must obtain a warrant by proving to a judge that there is reason to believe the law has been broken. Because our shelter standards are so vague it is nearly impossible to prove to a judge that the law has been broken until a dog has suffered an injury due to inadequate shelter. By then it's too late. A law enforcement officer may remove a dog without a warrant only if the animal is in " imminent danger", i.e., on the verge of death, and there is no time to obtain a proper warrant. Our canine friends should not have to be in imminent danger before we can intervene to help them. Effective animal protection laws prevent animals from being injured in the first place, they don't just punish people who cause them to be injured.

Under the current law a person who fails to provide adequate shelter for a dog may be charged with a misdemeanor on a first offense, or a Class B felony on a subsequent offense. If found guilty, the owner is responsible for reimbursing the shelter facility for the care of the dog. If found Not Guilty, the Town the dog came from will ultimately end up paying the costs, and the dog may be returned to the owner. If the owner is charged with animal cruelty, the case will proceed through the State Court system, and the dog will most likely stay in protective custody until the case is resolved, sometimes many, many months.

If we had very clear, specific standards for shelter for outside dogs it would be better for the dogs, better for the dog owners, better for ACOs and law enforcement officers, better for the Towns that pay the costs of animal control issues, and better for the State by keeping most of these cases out of the Court system

We need to amend RSA 644:8 to provide specific standards that will be clear to dog owners, law enforcement officers and the Courts. We've tried it before, and we will try it again.



Contact e-mail: info@give-us-shelter.com

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