“This was a bipartisan bill meant to insert some balance into how these small businesses are regulated,” said Richardson, R-Minco. “The Department of Agriculture knows about proper animal husbandry and how to regulate it. There were a number of lawmakers who did not agree with some of the decisions of the Commercial Pet Breeders Board. I believe the industry needs to have some scrutiny, but that they did not strike the proper balance between oversight and support for the industry.”
The legislation was approved by a vote of 89-1 in the House, Richardson said.
“This was not a divisive issue,” said Richardson. “Almost everyone was on board with the idea of giving the Department of Agriculture the authority to regulate this industry rather than an independent commission. I’m pleased by the consensus.”
The ASPCA called this bill inhumane.
“In 2010, the Oklahoma Legislature passed the original Commercial Pet Breeder Act, which mandated the creation of the Commercial Pet Breeder Board. This was a great step forward to protect puppy mill dogs. The fair-minded, knowledgeable board has worked hard to put humane, enforceable standards in place for the care of dogs in Oklahoma's large-scale breeding facilities. H.B. 2921 will abolish the Commercial Pet Breeder Board and the administrative rules it created and transfer puppy mill enforcement and oversight to the Department of Agriculture—an agency that does not have the expertise, knowledge or experience necessary to protect the animals.”
“By transferring oversight responsibilities to the state Department of Agriculture, this legislation will ensure the humane treatment of animals while also providing fair treatment and regulation of commercial pet breeders in Oklahoma,” Governor Fallin said. “It also allows us to continue to reduce the size of our state government without reducing the quality of services or oversight we are providing. My thanks go out to the Legislature for sending this bill to my desk.”
According to officials at the Department, in order to keep the license fees reasonable, the Department will need state appropriations for personnel, but that licensing and other fees should pay for the cost of fulfilling the additional provisions of the Act. In addition, the measure stipulates ODAFF will receive any money in the Pet Breeders Board accounts, which, as of December 2011, was $222,000. It will also save $168,000 in annual personnel costs.
House Bill 2921 defines adult animal as an intact female 12 months of age or older.
The measure requires that the State Board of Agriculture enforce and administer the provisions of the Commercial Pet Breeders Act and promulgate rules that establish application and license renewal procedures and fees. The board also will establish procedures for license revocation, denial or denial of renewal; and minimum standards of care for animals. The board must establish procedures for the sale of animals. Breeders will have an exemption for animals that are used for training and not breeding.
A person must not act as a commercial pet breeder without a commercial pet breeder license. The measure allows the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry to contract with a local veterinarian, other state agency or any other person to conduct pre-license inspections and annual inspections. The department may not hire any humane society group or member to make inspections. The department must inspect pet breeder facilities before issuing the initial pet breeder license and applicants must pay a nonrefundable inspection fee.
Breeders must obtain a separate license for each location where they keep breeding animals.
The department may deny a license or renewal or revoke a license if a breeder is convicted of a crime involving animal cruelty, violation of the Commercial Pet Breeders Act or violent felony offenses or a felony punishable under the Oklahoma Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. 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 states inoculations and medications given.
If the State Board of Agriculture finds a breeder in violation of the act or rules created due to the act, the board may assess 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.
The measure also repeals the sections of law that previously established the Commercial Pet Breeders Act.
The measure also creates the Commercial Pet Breeders Assistance Revolving Fund to be used for defraying veterinary costs and care of animals removed from a commercial pet breeder.