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Pet breeders bill wins Oklahoma House approval

The measure would place the pet breeders board under the state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department. House Bill 2921 now heads to the Senate.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: May 18, 2012

Under HB 2921, the Agriculture Department would arrange for an annual inspection of each dog- or cat-breeding facility during normal business hours with the breeder or representative present.

It must inspect them before issuing an initial license and may contract with a local veterinarian, state agency or other person to inspect. However, the department may not enter into a contract with any humane society group.

The department would be able to deny or revoke a license if the person is convicted of a crime involving animal cruelty or of violent felony offenses. The board also may revoke or deny a license if a person's license pursuant to the Animal Welfare Act was revoked or denied due to improper care of animals.

The measure also requires that breeders must report annually to the department the number of adult males and other information about the prior year's operations. Breeders must also keep a health record for each animal that shows the inoculations and medications given.

Violations can result in a penalty of between $100 and $10,000, with each animal, each action or each day being a violation.

A facility cannot be charged more than $10,000 in administrative penalties in a license year.

HB 2921 also would set up a revolving fund in the Agriculture Department that will be used to pay for the care of abused dogs and cats found by inspectors, or puppies and kittens from a breeder whose operations were shut down. About $222,000 may be left in the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders' accounts, Richardson said. The funds would be transferred to the revolving fund. Private donations also may be made to the fund.

The Board of Commercial Pet Breeders has gone through two executive directors, with its first director quitting in September just a few days before inspectors were to begin enforcing commercial breeding laws.

A second director was hired in December, but he resigned two weeks later. The board has issued fewer than 300 licenses since it began enforcing its rules in October.

“They didn't get the people licensed that they needed to for this thing,” Richardson said.

At one time, it was estimated as many as 1,900 breeders were in the state. It's believed some have reduced their operations to fewer than 10 nonspayed females to avoid having to be licensed.