SHAWNEE — State animal rescue laws may have been broken at an adoption fair this week for about 100 dogs saved from an alleged puppy mill, Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth said. At the very least, industry standards for animal rescue were ignored, animal rights groups allege. Homes were found for about 90 dogs at an event Thursday coordinated by the Tri-County Humane Society and the local newspaper, The Shawnee News-Star. "Their hearts were in the right place, but there are proper ways to find homes for dogs like these,” Booth said. "The problem is that it’s probably too late to do anything about it.” The dogs were rescued Monday by Alan and Cara Baxter, Tri-County Humane Society founders, from a breeding operation in Bethel Acres. The Baxters agreed not to identify the female owner of the operation in exchange for the dogs, they said. News-Star employees helped find the dogs new homes after hearing their story. Hundreds of people from across the state came to the adoption fair, and all but about 15 dogs were placed in new homes, organizers said. Booth said he got numerous calls from animal rights groups Thursday saying laws that require legitimate animal rescue groups to spay and neuter animals before putting them up for adoption may have been broken. Alan Baxter said he has names and addresses of those adopting the dogs and will follow up with them about spaying and neutering. The fact that many of the females already were pregnant was disclosed to the new owners, he said. He learned Thursday afternoon about the state law, which requires animals be spayed or neutered unless the adopting party signs an agreement to have the animal sterilized and leaves a minimum $10 deposit. He said they quickly made up a contract for people adopting the pets and collected the $10 deposit. Cara Baxter said she’s not sure whether the statute applies to their group. She said in the future, all of the animals they rescue will be sterilized before being placed in new homes.
Fair called ‘black eye’Christy Counts, president of the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, said while Thursday’s adoption fair on the surface seems to be a success, it went against industry standards for animal rescue. "Many of these dogs are probably going to end right back in puppy mills or in a shelter,” Counts said. Counts said breeders likely coveted the adoption fair looking for new stock. And families that adopted pets may find that their new companion doesn’t have the social skills to be around people yet. Counts said she and several other legitimate rescue groups tried to contact the Baxters and offer their help. "Our calls were not returned or we were turned down,” Counts said. "This is a black eye for animal rescue in this state, because it was not done responsibly.” Counts said a professional organization would have assured the dogs had veterinary care, were brought up to good health and then placed in foster care to develop socialization skills. Before they were adopted, they would have been spayed or neutered to ensure they didn’t contribute to the pet over population problem. "There are resources to do this,” Counts said.
No charges yetPottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon said he’s gotten numerous calls from animal organizations complaining about the adoption fair. Some also pressured him to file charges against the Bethel Acres women operating the alleged puppy mill, he said. "It’s like everything else, there needs to be an investigation by law enforcement to warrant charges,” Smothermon said. "So far, I’ve gotten nothing.” Booth said a sheriff’s deputy did respond to an animal cruelty call at the Bethel Acres breeding facility but left at the request of Cara Baxter. "When he got out there he was told by her that it was all taken care of,” Booth said. Booth said his office is planning to look into both issues with the dogs and consult with Smothermon.
Oklahoma law requires animals to be spayed or neutered unless the adopting party signs an agreement to have the animal sterilized and leaves a minimum $10 deposit.