Voters will be required to present identification before casting ballots and pet breeders will face new rules and licensing requirements under new laws taking effect Friday.
Opponents promise lawsuits to block the
Lawmakers approved legislation this year containing guidelines and procedures for the state Board of Commercial Pet Breeders. Legislation was passed last year establishing the board.
Oklahoma is behind only Missouri in the number of puppies sold by breeders to wholesalers and on the Internet. Oklahoma consistently has been in the top five with the number of problem breeders, or those reported by buyers who can't find the breeders after a puppy bought from them turns up sick or dies.
Federally licensed pet breeders, who sought exemption, have to meet the state's rules and regulations. The requirements do not apply to breeders with 10 or fewer nonspayed female animals.
Misty Fields, a Tulsa lawyer, filed a lawsuit last month in Le Flore County District Court that claims legislation regulating pet breeders is unconstitutional.
The state constitution requires the Board of Agriculture to have jurisdiction over all matters affecting the animal industry, she said. The Board of Commercial Pet Breeders is under the jurisdiction of the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.
“That would be a huge step in the right direction,” she said. “It's a readily established agency. They deal with these sorts of matters all the time. They already have standards in place for animal husbandry and the breeding and raising of animals.”
The state's pet breeding legislation also violates the constitution because it could be considered a special law and it violates the one-subject rule, she said.
The legislation is also too open-ended and gives little or no direction to the board, Fields said.
A hearing is set for July 7. Fields is seeking orders that would prohibit the state from enforcing its regulations pending the outcome of the case.
Angel Soriano, chairman of the pet breeders board, said more than 50 veterinarians have signed up to serve as inspectors of pet-breeding operations.
They will contract with the board to provide the services.
The board has two full-time investigators who are commissioned and are authorized to carry weapons, he said.
Breeders who are not registered with the board face a fine up of up to $500 per dog or cat found in their operation as well as any violation found on the premises.
“We will know a lot about this industry in Oklahoma, meaning who are the good breeders and who are the bad ones,” Soriano said. “I would expect that the bad breeders are going to move out. Either that or they're going to have to comply, which means that they're no longer bad breeders.”
“As a state we do not want to be known as a state that produces bad puppies, and we have been known for that,” Soriano said.
“We have been known for that and we've also been known for having breeders that don't live up to the warranties that pretty much disappear. That's just ludicrous to have that kind of reputation.”
Thea King, president of Oklahoma Pet Professionals, said she is concerned the regulations go only after pet breeders who are complying with accepted standards and do nothing to crack down on the breeders who sell puppies in poor health in parking lots and on the Internet.
Voter ID challenge
Meanwhile, a legal challenge is expected this week to attack the constitutionality of a ballot measure approved by state voters in November that requires people to present identification before voting.
The voter identification law enacted by last year's passage of State Question 746 interferes with voters' rights, Tulsa attorney James Thomas said.
The measure imposes undue limits on the right to vote, Thomas said, and is unconstitutional under Article 3 of the state constitution, which reads: “All elections shall be free and equal. No power, civil or military, shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”
Thomas said SQ 746, which received 74.3 percent support, also violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying voters equal protection of the laws.
Paul Ziriax, the state's election board secretary, said the new proof-of-identity law is scheduled to be enforced in July when four counties have special elections.
The first state election under the new law will be the Aug. 9 special Republican primary election in Senate District 43, which covers southern Oklahoma County and northern Cleveland
The first statewide election in which all precincts in every county will be open that would fall under the new law is the presidential primary election in March.
Those without the required identification could sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional
Ziriax said he is not aware of any instance of voter impersonation that has occurred in the state.
“That is what the proof of identity law is designed to do is to ensure that the person who is casting the ballot is the person who's eligible to vote in that election,' he said.
AT A GLANCE
Pet breeders law
A toll-free hot line is in place to report cases of animal abuse. For all cases that are reported to the state Board of Commercial Pet Breeders, callers must leave their name, telephone number, location and description of the abuse taking place. The number is (855) 866-3894. For more information about the state's pet-breeding law, go to www.ok.gov/petbreeders/.