Oklahoma’s $30-million dog-and-cat breeding industry needs to be regulated, state Rep. Lee Denney said. Denney, a veterinarian, told a House committee last week the lack of regulation in the state’s so-called puppy and kitten mills explains the increased frequency of animal breeders being arrested in the state for animal cruelty. Denney, R-Cushing, cited the arrest of a Kansas man after authorities in December discovered nearly 100 neglected pit bull terriers at a rented farm near Newkirk. "I’m embarrassed that we do this in Oklahoma, that we allow the welfare of animals to get so low,” said Denney, author of House bill 1332. "I personally know of no better way to solve this problem than instituting some regulations for breeders in the state of Oklahoma.” She acknowledged the state has animal cruelty laws and that charges can be sought against breeders who starve and chain dogs. "Why do we need to let it get to that?” Denney asked. "Why do we have to let hundreds of animals suffer?” She said many cities have animal control officers, but most substandard breeders operate in isolated areas. Most sheriffs don’t have enough deputies to investigate complaints of puppy mills, she said. Oklahoma has about 700 breeding kennels and facilities licensed by the U.S. Agriculture Department, she said. At least 2,100 others are unlicensed, she said. Unlicensed breeders sell their puppies and kittens on the Internet, in store parking lots and on street corners, said Ruth Steinberger of the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals. Substandard breeders make higher profits because of the cheaper care they provide to animals. HB 1332, which advances to the full House after approval by the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee, would require animal breeders and dealers to obtain a state quality assurance license if they sell or transfer 25 or more animals a year. It’s similar to a measure that failed to advance last year. The bill also would require licensed dealers to allow regular inspections by state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department workers. The inspectors would check to make sure kennels are clean and animals are receiving enough food and veterinary care, Denney said. It would be up to the inspectors to decide whether to seize puppies and kittens. The bill would not apply to out-of-state breeders participating in dog shows or field trial events. Opponents said the measure would punish legitimate breeders and force those breeders already licensed and inspected by federal authorities to go through another inspection. "It will drive the substandard breeders even further underground,” said Pat Harbert, who said she runs a purebred cat rescue organization in Tulsa. Thea King, president of Bristow’s Oklahoma Pet Professionals, which represents about 300 breeders, said the measure is heavy-handed; penalties include having liens placed on a breeder’s property. Christy Counts of the Oklahoma Humane Society said puppy mills are a consumer protection issue. Oklahomans spend hundreds of dollars on animals that are sick and need expensive veterinary care. Often, those animals die, she said. Rep. Charles Key, R-Oklahoma City, a committee member who opposed the measure, said he is concerned about constitutional issues surrounding search and seizure activities by state inspectors.