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Legal Information: New Hampshire

Statutes: New Hampshire

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Updated: 
February 10, 2020

644:8. Cruelty to Animals

I. In this section, “cruelty” shall include, but not be limited to, acts or omissions injurious or detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of any animal, including the abandoning of any animal without proper provision for its care, sustenance, protection or shelter.

II. In this section, “animal” means a domestic animal, a household pet or a wild animal in captivity.

II-a. In this section, “shelter” or “necessary shelter” for dogs shall mean any natural or artificial area which provides protection from the direct sunlight and adequate air circulation when that sunlight is likely to cause heat exhaustion of a dog tied or caged outside. Shelter from the weather shall allow the dog to remain clean and dry. Shelter shall be structurally sound and have an area within to afford the dog the ability to stand up, turn around and lie down, and be of proportionate size as to allow the natural body heat of the dog to be retained.

III. A person is guilty of a misdemeanor for a first offense, and of a class B felony for a second or subsequent offense, who:

(a) Without lawful authority negligently deprives or causes to be deprived any animal in his possession or custody necessary care, sustenance or shelter;

(b) Negligently beats, cruelly whips, tortures, mutilates or in any other manner mistreats or causes to be mistreated any animal;

(c) Negligently overdrives, overworks, drives when overloaded, or otherwise abuses or misuses any animal intended for or used for labor;

(d) Negligently transports any animal in his possession or custody in a manner injurious to the health, safety or physical well-being of such animal;

(e) Negligently abandons any animal previously in his or her possession or custody by causing such animal to be left without supervision or adequate provision for its care, sustenance, or shelter;

(f) Has in his or her possession an equine colt that is less than 90 days old that is not being nursed by its dam, unless the colt was born in this state, and its dam has died within this state before the colt became 90 days old;

(g) Sells an equine colt that is less than 90 days old that is not being nursed by its dam; or

(h) Otherwise negligently permits or causes any animal in his or her possession or custody to be subjected to cruelty, inhumane treatment, or unnecessary suffering of any kind.

III-a. A person is guilty of a class B felony who purposely beats, cruelly whips, tortures, or mutilates any animal or causes any animal to be beaten, cruelly whipped, tortured, or mutilated.

IV. (a)(1) Any person charged with animal cruelty under paragraphs III or III-a may have his or her animals confiscated by the arresting officer.

(2) A person charged under this section may petition the court to seek an examination of the animals by a veterinarian licensed under RSA 332-B of his or her choice at the expense of the person charged.

(3) Courts shall give cases in which animals have been confiscated by an arresting officer priority on the court calendar. In cases in which animals have been confiscated by an arresting officer or his or her agency, a status hearing shall be held by the court within 14 days of the confiscation of the animals.

(4) Any person with proof of sole ownership or co-ownership of an animal confiscated by an arresting officer in an animal cruelty case and who is not a defendant or party of interest in the criminal case may petition the court for temporary custody of the animal. The court shall give such person priority for temporary custody of the animal if the court determines it is in the best interest of the animal’s health, safety, and wellbeing.

(5) No custodian of an animal confiscated under this section shall spay or neuter or otherwise permanently alter the confiscated animal in his or her custody pending final disposition of the court case unless a treating veterinarian deems such procedure necessary to save the life of the animal.

(6) Upon a person’s conviction of cruelty to animals, the court shall dispose of the confiscated animal in any manner it decides except in a case in which the confiscated animal is owned or co-owned by persons other than the defendant. If the defendant does not have an ownership interest in the confiscated animal, the court shall give priority to restoring full ownership rights to any person with proof of ownership if the court determines that such is in the best interest of the animal’s health, safety, and wellbeing. If the confiscated animal is co-owned by the defendant, the court shall give priority to transferring the defendant’s interest in the property to the remaining owner or co-owners equitably if the court determines that such is in the best interest of the animal’s health, safety, and wellbeing.

(7) The costs to provide the confiscated animals with humane care and adequate and necessary veterinary services, if any, incurred in boarding and treating the animal, pending disposition of the case, and in disposing of the animal upon a conviction of said person for cruelty to animals, shall be borne by the person so convicted in accordance with rules adopted by the department of agriculture, markets, and food.

(b) In addition, the court may prohibit any person convicted of a misdemeanor offense of animal cruelty under RSA 644:8, RSA 644:8-aa, RSA 644:8-b, RSA 644:8-c, or RSA 644:8-d, or violation of RSA 644:8-f from having future ownership or custody of, or residing with other animals for any period of time the court deems reasonable or impose any other reasonable restrictions on the person’s future ownership or custody of animals as necessary for the protection of the animals. The court shall prohibit or limit any person convicted of a felony offense of animal cruelty under RSA 644:8 or a misdemeanor or felony offense of bestiality under RSA 644:8-g from having future ownership or custody of other animals for a minimum of 5 years, and may impose any other reasonable restrictions on the person’s future ownership or custody of, or residing or having contact with animals as necessary for the protection of the animals. For the purposes of this paragraph, a reasonable restriction on future contact may include limiting a person from engaging in any employment in the care of animals or other similar contact as the court sees fit. Any animal involved in a violation of a court order prohibiting or limiting ownership or custody of animals shall be subject to immediate forfeiture. Any person violating such order may, in addition to being held in criminal contempt of court or subject to a probation violation, be fined in the amount of $1,000 in any court of competent jurisdiction for each animal held in unlawful ownership or custody.

(c) If a person convicted of any offense of cruelty to animals appeals the conviction in an initial de novo or subsequent appeal and any confiscated animal remains in the custody of the arresting officer, the arresting officer’s agency, or the arresting officer’s agency’s designee pending disposition of the appeal, in order for the defendant or appellant to maintain a future interest in the animal, the trial or appellate court, after consideration of the income of the defendant or appellant, may require the defendant or appellant to post a bond or other security in an amount not exceeding $2,000 for each animal in custody for costs expected to be incurred for the board and care of the animal during the trial, trial de novo, or appeal. Such bond or security shall be posted to the court within 30 days. If such bond or security is not paid within 30 days after the court orders the bond or security to be posted, the animals shall be forfeited to the arresting officer, the arresting officer’s agency, or the arresting officer’s agency’s designee. The court may, for good cause, extend the deadline by no more than 15 days. If the conviction is affirmed on appeal, the costs incurred for the board and care of the animal, from the date the animal or animals were originally confiscated, shall be paid to the custodial agency from the posted security and the balance, if any, shall be returned to the person who posted it. A court shall order the return of any bond or security upon a court approved agreement of the parties, a finding of not guilty, or the reversal of a conviction, unless it is a reversal with remand for further proceeding.

IV-a. (a) Except as provided in subparagraphs (b) and (c) any appropriate law enforcement officer, animal control officer, or officer of a duly licensed humane society may take into temporary protective custody any animal when there is probable cause to believe that it has been or is being abused or neglected in violation of paragraphs III or III-a when there is a clear and imminent danger to the animal’s health or life and there is not sufficient time to obtain a court order. Such officer shall leave a written notice indicating the type and number of animals taken into protective custody, the name of the officer, the time and date taken, the reason it was taken, the procedure to have the animal returned and any other relevant information. Such notice shall be left at the location where the animal was taken into custody. The officer shall provide for proper care and housing of any animal taken into protective custody under this paragraph. If, after 7 days, the animal has not been returned or claimed, the officer shall petition the municipal or district court seeking either permanent custody or a one-week extension of custody or shall file charges under this section. If a week’s extension is granted by the court and after a period of 14 days the animal remains unclaimed, the title and custody of the animal shall rest with the officer on behalf of the officer’s department or society. The department or society may dispose of the animal in any lawful and humane manner as if it were the rightful owner. If after 14 days the officer or the officer’s department determines that charges should be filed under this section, the officer shall petition the court.

(b) For purposes of subparagraph (a) the investigating officer for livestock, as defined in RSA 427:38, III, shall be accompanied by a veterinarian licensed under RSA 332-B or the state veterinarian who shall set the probable cause criteria for taking the animal or animals.

(c)(1) For purposes of subparagraph (a), for facilities licensed to conduct live running or harness horseracing or live dog racing pursuant to RSA 284, the appropriate law enforcement officer, animal control officer, or officer of a duly licensed humane society shall:

(A) Notify the director of the pari-mutuel commission of the circumstances arising under subparagraph (a);

(B) Enter the grounds of the facility with the director of the pari-mutuel commission or such person designated by the director of the pari-mutuel commission;

(C) Take such horses or dogs into temporary protective custody as determined by the director of the pari-mutuel commission or such person designated by the director of the pari-mutuel commission; and

(D) Comply with subparagraph (a) after taking a horse or dog from a facility licensed pursuant to RSA 284 into temporary protective custody.

(2) This paragraph shall not preempt existing or enforcement authority of the pari-mutuel commission, pursuant to RSA 284 or rules and regulations adopted pursuant to such authority.V. A veterinarian licensed to practice in the state shall be held harmless from either criminal or civil liability for any decisions made for services rendered under the provisions of this section or RSA 435:11-16. Such a veterinarian is, therefore, under this paragraph, protected from a lawsuit for his part in an investigation of cruelty to animals.