It took decades for Oklahoma to shed legal cockfighting and it’s taken decades to crack down on puppy mills. Laws against cockfighting or indiscriminate puppy and kitten breeding won’t stop these activities altogether, but they do take a big bite out of them.
Saturday’s arrest of three men in southwest Oklahoma City illustrates that when cockfighting is outlawed, only outlaws continue to stage cockfights. The men were furtively carrying on an activity, often accompanied by gambling and illegal drugs, that voters banned in 2002. Meanwhile at the Legislature, the crackdown on puppy mills has been more difficult than counting teeth on a hen. The moral argument against puppy mills is that it’s wrong to bring pets into the world in unsanitary, unhealthy places of habitation, solely for the purpose of profiting from the emotional appeal of puppies. The practical argument — and one similar to talking points used against cockfighting and, earlier, the ban on liquor by the drink — is that Oklahoma looks bad in becoming the last state to allow an odious activity or ban a reasonable one. The "last state” argument is very much in play when it comes to puppy mills, with a pending crackdown in Missouri, believed to be the only state that rivals Oklahoma in the puppy mill mess. A puppy mill bill has been sent to the governor’s desk. As for illegal cockfighting, it will never entirely end but at least the days of wide-open fighting pits are gone for good.