Animal Welfare Fight Not Over Yet

posted March 15th, 2011 by
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BY RUTH STEINBERGER

Throughout The Last three months  we have seen media reports of “puppy mill  closures,” with some breeders claiming that  the recently drafted regulations for Oklahoma  kennels will cause them to close their doors.

Some Legislators are beginning to act on  behalf of breeders and their unsubstantiated  fears.  

In December, a network of Tulsa area  shelters and rescue organizations, along  with Dr. Chet Thomas of City Veterinary  Hospital, worked to provide temporary care  and housing for 197 adult dogs and puppies  released by breeders shutting down.

And while some breeders blame potential  regulations for their closing, it should be  noted that closing a business prior to public  hearing or approval of new regulations  indicates:

• These breeders would have closed,  regardless of the regulations.
• Growing awareness of puppy mills has  prompted a downturn in puppy sales.
• The slowing economy has impacted “impulse” sales that comprise  pet store puppy purchases in the  Northeast, the primary site of puppy  retail sales.
• Thousands of dogs have lost their  homes to foreclosures and job losses,  reducing the number of homes  available to dogs from any sources,  including puppy mills.
• Blaming forthcoming regulations for  breeders is a convenient excuse for  closure.

For any one or all of these reasons, some  breeders decided that it was not worth  continuing in this industry no matter what the  regulations may be.

Oklahoma residents, including readers of  Tulsa Pets Magazine, are asking what they  can do to help insure the welfare of dogs,  considering breeder closures and efforts  of breeders to dilute  or kill regulations  requiring basic  improvements for the  health and welfare  of dogs in breeder  facilities.

First and most  important, the  animals need your  voice; efforts at the  state Capitol aimed  at helping animals  will be aided by a  grass roots voice in  every community.   Contacting your  Legislator is the most  important step for the  animals. Puppy mill  operators are making  their voices heard loud  and clear.

Use e-mail, snail mail  and phone calls to let  your Legislators know  that, as a constituent,  you support the  proposed rules of  the Oklahoma State Board of Commercial  Pet Breeders specifically and animal welfare  efforts generally.

Currently, puppy producers are claiming  that last year’s passage of breeder  regulations “will shut us down” and their  position as victims has been heard by a few  Legislators. At least three bills are before the Legislature aimed at repealing or amending  Senate Bill 1712, the statute creating the  Board of Commercial Pet Breeders, or to  repeal or diminish the regulations proposed  by the board.

Breeders have overwhelmed the board  and Legislators and any extra measures  on behalf of welfare of the dogs were  eliminated during the comment period,  which led to continuing to allow small cage  sizes and no mandatory rest period between  mother dogs’ breeding cycles.

Let your Legislators know that breeding  facilities not complying should be closed.   The rules proposed by the Commercial Pet  Breeders Board ensure basic necessities  such as food, water, living conditions  and veterinary care. The proposed new  regulations were changed following lobbying  of breeders. You can view the rules in their  entirety at http://www.ok.gov/petbreeders/ documents/Rules%20Adopted%2012-22 2010.pdf.

Second, puppy mills are a consumerdriven industry and retail puppy sales are  declining. You can help promote that trend. Pet stores and Internet sites are the main  sales venues for puppies. As consumers  become more aware of the conditions  in puppy mills and the congenital health  problems of the puppies, the more people  turn elsewhere for a dog.

Increasing numbers of educated and  caring people are adopting a pet from an  animal shelter or rescue organization instead  of purchasing from a retail store or from  the Internet. According to the Pet Food  Industries Council, 24 percent of dogs are  now acquired from shelters, compared to 17  percent a few years ago.

You can support this trend by helping  raise awareness of the benefits of shelter  adoptions, while deterring people from  buying a puppy from the for-profit breeder  industry.   Volunteering at a shelter, promoting  adoptions, and generally working on behalf  of homeless pets all help to indirectly  diminish the consumer base that drives  this industry. A letter to the editor, a guest  column and sharing info with friends helps in  this effort.

A recent Tulsa World poll showed  that at least 70 percent of Oklahomans  support regulation of puppy mills. However,  regulations designed to limit the number  of dogs in a breeding facility have been  blocked for years by an underground  industry, which is regulated or even banned  in many areas of the U.S.

Breeders are successful in getting what  they want written into the regulations or  fighting to eliminate any new regulation. It is time to put this indulgence behind  us. Breeders claim to be serious players  in Oklahoma agriculture, but they are not.   Hiding behind the fear of regulations does  not serve our state well.

It is time to support the new agency  created through the passage of SB 1712,  ask the Legislature to move forward to  address other issues facing Oklahoma, and  allow last year’s widely-supported bill to do  its job.

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