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.