Lawmakers Discuss Puppy Mill Bill

Tuesday, November 6th 2007, 9:43 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma is getting a bad reputation because of the unscrupulous practices of some dog breeders and the lack of a state law to regulate so-called puppy mills, lawmakers were told Tuesday.

Rep. Lee Denny, R-Cushing, a veterinarian, plans to introduce legislation to regulate the industry.

"The issue is animal welfare and public health," said Billy Clay, chairman of a task force of the Oklahoma Veterinarian Association that studied the issue and drafted a proposed law.

Clay said Oklahoma is second only to Missouri in the commercial production of household pets.

He said there are 645 breeders registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and at least three times that many who are not registered and "have no oversight whatsoever."

Clay said the lack of regulation has led to cruel conditions at puppy mills, the threat of the spread of disease to both animals and humans and fraudulent practices in the sale of pets.

He said some unhealthy pets are being sold using health certificates obtained on a different animal. It is causing "a problem and a stigma for the state of Oklahoma," Clay said.

The draft plan presented by the task force would require regulation of breeders who have 25 or more dogs, cats, kittens or puppies.

Ruth Steinberger of the Oklahoma Animal Alliance said most states have passed similar regulations and the proposed state standards are not radical.

Ed Kent, deputy sheriff in Marshall County said he personally knows of four "full-fledged puppy mills" in his area. Kent said animal cruelty cases often are not prosecuted in rural
areas because of a lack of resources.

Susan Savage, secretary of state, said she was interested in the issue as a former Tulsa mayor and lifelong animal advocate. She said it is an animal cruelty issue, a consumer issue and an economic issue.

"I would submit we don't want that kind of business enterprises in our state," she said of unscrupulous breeders.

Tara Beres of Safe Haven said the propose state law should address "the travesty of profit-building empires" that purport to be animal rescue groups but keep pets in unsanitary conditions.

Stacy Mason of the American Kennel Club said she sees many good kennels in Oklahoma and they should not be penalized by the proposed regulations.

Her remarks were echoed by Steve Wilson, a USDA-licensed breeder from Calera. "We're doing our job and we shouldn't regulated," he said.

Mason suggested that the state Department of Agriculture should be in charge of any new regulations, instead of the veterinarian industry.