Lower licensing fees and elimination of required vet-conducted physical examinations at dog and cat kennels were last-minute changes to emergency rules that regulate commercial pet breeders.
The changes, approved Tuesday, were announced before the start of a hearing on the rules by the state Board of Agriculture. Most of the eight pet breeders who spoke said they appreciated the lower fees but that they are still steep.
“We need to work toward a farmer-type based fee,” said Gary Phillips, a breeder near Adair. “That’s still a lot of money.”
A representative of the Humane Society of the United States said the rules were a good start, but suggested stricter standards.
Dale Bartlett, public policy manager of the organization’s Puppy Mills Campaign, said his group doesn’t like the use of wire flooring and the stacking of cages. “Stacking just leads to overcrowding,” said Bartlett, who flew in from Washington, D.C., for the hearing.
Bartlett said veterinarians should make at least an annual examination of the animals, and breeding females should have no more than two litters every 18 months.
“Their systems are under constant stress,” he said.
Several breeders said female dogs in good condition can have puppies every six months. Limiting the number of litters could cause other health or reproduction issues.
“A dog will rest when she needs to rest,” Laverne breeder Elva Bentley said.
Linda Jarrell, co-owner of a Hulbert kennel, said she put in concrete floors and found a solid floor “is a mess for the dogs.”
Teena Gunter, general counsel for the state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department who worked with breeders on the rules, said the emergency rules require at least part of the floor to have a solid surface so the dog or cat isn’t always on wire.
The emergency rules still require veterinarians to make at least a personal visual inspection annually of pet breeding operations, she said. If during the course of that visit signs of disease or injury are detected, then a physical examination of any dog or cat would be conducted.
The five-member Board of Agriculture listened to comments, toured pet-breeding facilities and then returned to unanimously approve the rules.
Gov. Mary Fallin will be asked to sign the rules before the Agriculture Department begins regulating commercial pet breeders July 1. Gunter said she has worked with Fallin’s staff to make sure the proposed rules are acceptable.
If approved by the governor, the emergency rules can last until shortly after the end of the legislative session in late May. Work will start on drafting permanent rules in September or October; a public hearing likely will be held in October. The rules have to be submitted by April 1. The governor, House of Representatives or Senate can reject all or part of the rules within 45 legislative days; after that it would take joint action by the House, Senate and governor to change rules.
Lawmakers this year approved legislation that eliminated the Oklahoma Board of Commercial Pet Breeders and transferred regulation and licensing of kennels to the Agriculture Department. Rules adopted by the pet breeders’ board expire June 30.