Written by Shea Briody
Surprisingly, New Hampshire is one of the 15 states who have statutes for dognapping. Traditionally, dognapping has gone under the general crime of theft, which when defined means when a person intentionally takes another person’s property without their consent. Under New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (RSA) it is enumerated under Title LVII, Chapter 367-Theft, Section 637:2-Definitions. Dognapping, however, is listed as a person intentionally taking someone’s dog without consent. As dognapping has become an increasing problem, states are still in development of specific laws regarding dognapping. So, in the meantime, legislation has put dognapping under the category of larceny.
By definition, larceny is illegally taking away someone else’s property with intent to deprive said person of that property. In a dognapping case, this would obviously have been the dog. This definition is enumerated under the same statutes as theft in New Hampshire law. This legislation will be used to further enhance and create new laws for stolen dogs that are more specifically tailored to the crime of dognapping.
In order to be convicted of dognapping, many aspects of the case must be looked at. First, did a person take someone else’s dog? Second, did that person have permission to take that dog? Third and finally, did that person who stole that property have intent to deprive that person from their dog? This last element of intent is called “mens rea”. If all those questions are answered in the affirmative, then the person who stole the dog can be charged under the potential dognapping.
The punishment for a dognapping is typically a misdemeanor charge for the first two offenses in New Hampshire. A misdemeanor charge in larceny could mean a small fine to a short time in jail depending on the circumstances of the dognapping. However, just like regular stolen items, the penalty for stolen items with more value will have a greater punishment, like a larger fine or more jail time. In dognapping, a greater punishment could be dealt when a dog is a purebred, because the dog holds more value than other dogs that are not purebred. Moreover, if it happens a third time, the person can be charged with a misdemeanor.
I am presently an intern at PMM Law, and working under attorneys in the civil litigation department. While PMMLaw handles dog bite cases, they have handled cases in the past where they have filed Writs of Replevin for the return of animals unlawfully taken. If you have questions about issues related to your dog, contact one of the experienced attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay, PLLC.