Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States
On January 14, the New Hampshire House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee convened for a hearing on legislation, that if passed, would implement restrictions on the sporting dog community.
Exactly one-month prior to this hearing, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter of opposition to the New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG) Commission’s Legislator Committee and Strategic Planning Committee, calling for them to take positions against this bill.
House Bill 1308 (HB 1308) would prohibit individuals and sporting dog clubs from the live taking of snowshoe hares or rabbits from the wild for the purpose of using them for dog training, to stock a training site, or in field trials.
CSF’s Assistant Manager for the Northeastern States, Joe Mullin, testified against this bill in-person, emphasizing that curbing the training of dogs by restricting the use of wild rabbits and hares is an affront on hunting and many other outdoor sporting traditions.
Why it Matters: Training one’s hunting dog prior to taking it afield is an absolute necessity – ask any sportsman or woman. In New Hampshire and across the nation, dogs are a regular part of the hunting culture and play a vital role in a number of a pursuits, including rabbit and snowshoe hare hunting. In preparation for these seasons, a dog is commonly trained over live, captured rabbits and/or hares under environments that simulate situations the dog will see in the field. The use of these rabbits and hares is also an important component to field trials, during which a dog’s ability to perform under hunting conditions is both tested and scored. Legislative efforts to prevent the use of captured rabbits or hares threatens to undermine a dog’s preparation, thus risking its overall safety and performance.
On January 14, the New Hampshire House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee met at the Capitol for a hearing on a handful of sportsmen’s policies. Among these policies was House Bill 1308 (HB 1308) – legislation that would prohibit the live taking of snowshoe hares or rabbits from the wild for dog training, to stock a training site, or in field trials. This hearing came one month after the New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG) Commission’s Legislator Committee and Strategic Planning Committee met and voted 9-1 against this bill. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted written testimony in advance of the hearing to the NHFG Commission opposing HB 1308, but there was still much work to be done.
During the January 14 hearing, CSF testified against HB 1308 and submitted written opposition outlining the important role that sporting dogs play in New Hampshire and how the use of live rabbits and hares is often an essential component in training. As is the case with professional athletes, simulating live and realistic conditions results in peak performance in the field and works to stave off injuries. In the case of hunting and field trials, dogs rely on time spent over wild hares and rabbits in order to prepare and work optimally. By prohibiting the use of wild hares and rabbits for dog training, to stock a training site, or in field trials, HB 1308 will have two likely effects: it will send undertrained and underqualified dogs into the field in the pursuit of game, and it will drive a significant portion of New Hampshire’s dog training business into surrounding states.
CSF was joined by numerous in-state and national conservation partners, all of whom speaking out against HB 1308. While an executive session to vote on this bill has been set for January 25, the message from last Friday was clear – New Hampshire’s sporting dog owners will not stand for restrictive legislation such as this.
CSF thanks the many organizations and individuals who came out to voice their opposition to HB 1308. Additional updates on this issue will be provided as they are made available.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?