In response to a high-profile animal cruelty case two years earlier, in 2019 New Hampshire lawmakers eliminated “commercial kennels” from state law, and instead categorized anyone who transferred more than 25 dogs in a year as a “pet vendor”. A state inspection, license, and other requirements became a new reality for some hobby breeders with large litters who had not been previously considered to be operating a “commercial kennel”.
Issues raised by the American Kennel Club’s Government Relations Department (AKC GR) and its affiliated federation of dog clubs, the New Hampshire Dog Owners of the Granite State (NH DOGS), during the 2019 legislative debate on the “pet vendor” legislation foreshadowed an unfortunate consequence of the changes. In one serious example, a breeder that did not previously qualify as a commercial kennel (because they did not meet the sales threshold of the earlier “commercial kennel” designation), but who had regularly transferred more than 25 dogs a year, needed a state license under the new law. The pet vendor license application required submission of town zoning approval as a condition of licensure, but the breeder’s town refused to provide it. A lawsuit against the town was necessary to demonstrate an unconstitutional “taking” of their property had occurred, given the breeder could, without a state pet vendor license, no longer utilize their property as they had done for many years.
Dedication and tenacity eventually paid off. After virtual meetings with the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, and testimony before House and Senate legislative committees, AKC GR and NH DOGS were successful in moving a bill fixing the pet vendor license issues to Governor Chris Sununu’s desk. On August 17, 2021, Governor Sununu signed HB 250 into law. This would not have been possible without the leadership and support of Representative Howard Pearl, Chairman of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee, who championed these common-sense changes through the legislature.
Effective immediately, the new law (Chapter 215 of the Acts of 2021) increases, from 25 to 30, the number of dogs a person can transfer in one year before needing to obtain a state pet vendor license. It also provides protection to those who previously did not meet the pre-2019 requirements for licensure as a commercial kennel (50 dogs transferred) but who now qualify to be licensed as a “pet vendor” (because they transfer more than 30 dogs), by providing an opportunity to apply to the Commissioner for an exemption, if certain criteria are met. Lastly, the law eliminates the need to submit municipal zoning approval with a pet vendor license application, unless the applicant transfers more than the original limit of 50 dogs a year.
This important achievement is the result of small group of dedicated dog breeders working together. It is a testament to the American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, who once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”