The images are distressing — puppies crowded into cages with no place to even lie down, living in their own excrement. The standard of care for dogs and cats can be a very emotional issue and Oklahoma is at the crossroads of an important decision — whether to require minimum standards of care for animal breeding and handling.
The Pet Quality Assurance legislation of 2009 (House Bill 1332) is moving through the Legislature giving lawmakers the opportunity to set minimum standards to protect animals and the public health. Oklahoma produces the second-largest population of puppies and kittens in the United States. Tens of millions of dollars in sales revenue are generated each year in the sale of these animals. Most animal breeders are humane and reputable, but their livelihood is threatened by disreputable animal dealers pouring into the state. Oklahoma is the only state of its size that does not have standards for pet breeding and handling facilities. Oklahoma is attracting the worst of the worst animal dealers because surrounding states have adopted minimal standards for breeding facilities. The higher standards in Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and states to the north are pushing substandard dog and cat dealers into Oklahoma. They are offering low-quality animals for a low price and an unknowing public is buying these animals, putting the reputable breeders out of business. These poorly operated animal facilities also pose a risk to the public. With virtually no veterinary oversight, the risk of human transmission of up to 20 animal diseases and parasites has escalated.