Some Opposing So-Called Puppy Mill Bill

Tuesday, February 17th 2009, 4:49 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Loren, The News On 6

UNDATED -- Legislators at the Oklahoma Capitol will soon decide on a bill that some say could save thousands of dogs from so-called puppy mills.  It's called the Pet Quality Assurance and Protection Act.  But, there is a strong movement against the bill.

Denise Sessions is an advocate of animal rescues.

"These dogs deserve better," said Denise Sessions.

Last summer she rescued a five year old boxer, Becky, from a puppy mill.  Becky, along with 17 other boxers, was no longer needed for breeding and would have been killed.  Until her rescue she was known only as the number tattooed in her ear: S4.

"To take these dogs and say, um there is life after and you don't have to be euthanized because you were only euthanized for one thing. And she's a good girl, and there need to be rules and regulations," said Denise Sessions.

Sessions also supports House Bill 1332, The Oklahoma Pet Quality Assurance and Protection Act.  It would require people who sell at least 25 dogs a year to be licensed and regulated.  Proponents of the bill say its standards are minimal.

"So these standards would call for cleanliness, record keeping, which is very important, not to mention cage space. That's all this is about," said Ruth Steinberger with Oklahoma Alliance for Animals.

For example, the bill requires that if dogs are kept in cages, the cage has to be a certain size.  Specifically the cage has to be as long as the dog plus six inches.  The same minimal standards already imposed by the USDA for wholesale breeders across the country.

"The USDA facilities must meet certain minimal standards. For the facilities that are not required to have that license there are no minimum standards." "It's a free for all?" "It's a free for all," said Ruth Steinberger with Oklahoma Alliance for Animals.

That unregulated gap is filled by breeders.  Our lack of state laws has attracted a lot of bad breeders to Oklahoma, resulting in puppy mills that can't be stopped until it's too late.  That's usually when dogs are found dead or dying, like at a puppy mill in Delaware County.

Some say bad dog breeders are flocking to Oklahoma.

"You got it. We are the haven for the substandard," said Ruth Steinberger with Oklahoma Alliance for Animals.

But some reputable breeders feel this particular piece of legislation is no good, breeders like Mike Bennett who sells Akitas and whippets.

"We feel the law is very vague. The proposal as it sits is absolutely unenforceable," said Mike Bennett.

He says the new law is pointless because it won't stop puppy mills from operating.

"We feel this is unenforceable because the puppy millers will go further underground. They're not going to pay the licenses," said Mike Bennett.

Plus, he says the law would put an unnecessary financial burden on breeders like himself who are already doing everything right.

"And, if we could come up with some legislation that was specific and targeted puppy mills and was enforceable and without a risk of taxpayer dollars we're in favor," said Mike Bennett.

For people like Denise Sessions, a licensing fee is a small price to pay for a good cause.

"I don't understand why we can't put a law into effect that helps dogs live a good life. That's all," said Denise Sessions.

State legislators have been inundated with e-mails which call for them to fail the bill.  The problem is many of these e-mails are full of false propaganda, outlining provisions that are not actually in House Bill 1332.