Dog Breeders Protest Statehouse Measure

Tuesday, March 31st 2009, 9:21 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Loren, The News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- A dog fight could be underway at the Oklahoma Capitol.  The fate of the so-called puppy mill bill is on the line as state senators plan to vote on it on Wednesday. House Bill 1332 would require Oklahoma pet breeders to be licensed and regulated.  But, many of those breeders stormed the capitol on Tuesday, claiming the bill will destroy their livelihoods.

"We ask that you please open the hearts and the minds of lawmakers as we speak to them today so they can see the true flaws of House Bill 1332," said Bill Yarnall with the American Canine Association.

Nearly 100 Oklahoma dog breeders, armed with an out-of state professional spokesman, launched an assault at the state capitol.

"And, they don't realize that we're up here really fighting for our lives," said dog breeder Gary Phillips.

The dog breeders say their livelihoods are on the line if the Oklahoma Senate moves the so-called puppy mill bill forward on Wednesday.

"What else are we going to turn to when they take this away from us? Welfare. Food stamps. Stuff like that," said dog breeder Gary Phillips.

House Bill 1332 is aimed at shutting down and preventing puppy mills in Oklahoma.  It would require any cat or dog breeder who sells more than 25 animals a year to be licensed, regulated and inspected.

But, the breeders say the law won't fix the puppy mill problem and it will create an unbearable burden on their breeding businesses.

"We're not against being legislated. We just want legislation that we have a say in that will actually take care of the problem of the substandard kennels," said Thea King with Oklahoma Pet Professionals.

The breeders took their concerns directly to state senators, using talking points handed out by their leader Bill Yarnall from Pennsylvania.  He says the bill will not get rid of puppy mills.

"We feel if they're going to deal with the illegal unlicensed substandard kennels, which we know do exist, this bill does not do that," said Bill Yarnall with the American Canine Association.

But according to research by The News On 6 that same man has defended convicted puppy millers in Pennsylvania, who have been found guilty of animal cruelty and shut down.

Ervin Zimmerman was found guilty on 10 counts of animal cruelty at his dog breeding operation in Pennsylvania.  More than 100 dogs were seized from his farm after puppies were found wounded, infected and one whose paws had been chewed off.

Bill Yarnall defended Zimmerman in a lawsuit, claiming the state was targeting legitimate businesses.

Still, Oklahoma protesters followed Yarnall's lead.

According to the bill's author, Representative Lee Denney, the bill will just ensure healthy puppies are sold to Oklahoma consumers.

"I think people doing it right don't have anything to fear. If they're doing it right it won't be a problem," said Representative Lee Denney.

At last count the bill had about 12 of 22 votes on the Senate Appropriations Committee where it will be voted on Wednesday afternoon.