Say NO To Puppy Mills: Oklahoma Commercial Pet Breeder’s Act (SB 1712)

Key Messages

Oklahoma’s laws protecting our dogs and cats have not kept pace with what has become a $1 billion pet industry.

The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association estimates the public and industry will spend $1 billion annually buying dogs (no estimates available for cats.) This is a large industry and Oklahoma contains the second largest number of commercial pet breeders among our 50 states. In 2008, there were 475 USDA registered breeders in Oklahoma, and an estimated 600 to 1,000 unregistered breeders. The growth of unregistered breeders is much faster than the registered breeders because USDA licensing is not required for direct public sales.

Unscrupulous commercial breeders come to Oklahoma to operate puppy mills to avoid laws and policing that would shut them down in 25 other states.

The number of commercial breeders moving to Oklahoma from other states continues to grow because there is no state agency responsible for insuring standards of care and compliance or even handle complaints like most other states. USDA laws apply to only about one third of the commercial pet breeders, and provide for very few enforcement or penalty provisions. This is why over half of the states in the country have enacted laws regulating commercial dog and cat breeders, with many more states following. State leaders receive hundreds of out of state phone calls every year from disgruntled purchasers of puppies from Oklahoma. (The Commercial Breeding of dogs and cats is not made into a criminal act by this bill. It is made consistent with other businesses regulated by the state.)

Unscrupulous Breeders

Neglect and abuse our dogs and cats.

Hundreds of puppy mills, with the dogs living in abysmal conditions, have been discovered in Oklahoma over the years, usually too late to save. If commercial breeders had done a better job of self policing, then regulation would not be necessary. The puppy mill problem in Oklahoma is a national embarrassment, already having been the subject of a special series on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Over breeding contributed to more than 60,000 dogs being euthanized in Oklahoma in 2009 alone.

Over 60,000 dogs were euthanized in Oklahoma last year. The State and your cities pay for the catching, sheltering and euthanizing services at an estimated cost of $133 per dog. The cost to the state is about $8 million dollars annually. Since these consequences are not incurred by the commercial breeders, the breeders continue to over-supply the market. No data is available on cats, but the number euthanized is estimated to be very high as well.

Currently, Oklahomans lose $140 million* over 5 years because of nonexistent or ineffective licensing and inspections regulating our commercial dog and cat breeders.

(*annual uncollected sales tax – $20 million; and, annual euthanizing services – $8 million)

Commercial sales in Oklahoma are estimated between $75 million to $200 million annually. If state sales and income taxes were collected, the Oklahoma Tax commission would collect between $7.5 million to $20 million annually. Without regulation, the state has no method for determining the taxes due.

Questions and Answers

What is a Commercial Pet Breeder?

Under SB 1712, a Commercial Pet Breeder is a person in Oklahoma who possesses eleven or more breeding female dogs or cats, and is engaged in the business of breeding these animals.

Does the state have the right to regulate Commercial Pet Breeders?

Yes. The state exercises this right through the regulation of over 48 businesses and occupations in Title 59 of the Oklahoma Statutes, where this bill will become law. A list of these businesses regulated in Title 59 is provided below.

Doesn’t SB 1712 provide for fines and penalties of up to one year imprisonment if any part of the bill is violated?

Yes, the same as numerous other Acts for professions and occupations in Title 59 contain language assessing fines and penalties of imprisonment for any violation of that particular Act. Below, those businesses are notated by the citation where the penalty is found.

For example, in 59 O.S. Sec. 2009, if the owner or proprietor of a Health Spa violates any provision of the Oklahoma Health Spa Act, that person may be charged a fine not to exceed $5,000, or imprisoned in the County Jail for not more than one year, or both the fine and imprisonment. In 59 O.S. Sec. 698.18, veterinarians are punishable by both a fine and imprisonment for up to six months if they do not possess a current license or certificate to practice veterinary medicine. Arguably, many of the commercial dog breeders possess more dogs and cats in a year than an average veterinarian will see in that same time. It makes common sense that the fines and penalties for commercial breeders should be similar for violations of the acts regulating Veterinarians.

Why would you have the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders write the rules? Why not place them in the bill so that all can see what they are going to be?

The Board will be composed of eight Oklahomans from the industry, from appointees by the veterinary school at OSU and a representative chosen by the commercial breeders themselves. These individuals are more capable of writing the rules concerning the registration and licensing of breeders than are Oklahomans not associated with the industry. Over ¾ of the Boards for the industries regulated in Title 59 were also authorized to write the rules for their particular Act.

Aren’t there other bills being offered that would do a better job of regulating commercial pet breeders?

There are two other bills, but neither treats this industry as the business it is. They place regulation of the industry under the department of Agriculture, which was created and managed to protect the United States food supply. The breeding industry for these dogs and cats should be regulated as a business, not as an agricultural occupation. An agricultural occupation is defined as cultivating the soil, raising or harvesting any agricultural commodity, including livestock, dairy, poultry, fish, bee, fruit or truck farm, plantation, ranch or orchard.

Because dogs and cats are not part of America’s food supply, they are specifically excluded from livestock in 68 O.S. Sec. 1358, A.4. which reads, “Livestock” shall not be construed to include any pet animals such as dogs, cats, birds or such other fur-bearing animals.

Other Commercial Breeder Bills

SB 1340, the Kennel Definitions Act requires any person with 25 or more intact female breeding dogs to register with the USDA. The threshold to qualify as a commercial breeder is too high to be effective.Eleven breeding female dogs can produce over 110 puppies in a year.

SB 1340 also does not provide for any enforcement. There is no Oklahoma agency named to require breeders to register with the USDA if they do not fall under USDA guidelines. There is also no Oklahoma agency empowered to enforce any of the portions of the bill that do not relate to the USDA. The bill is intended to create no new regulations on the industry and is poorly written.

HB 2745, the Oklahoma Pet Quality Assurance and Protection Act will not require the industry to possess sales tax permits and maintain records sufficient to enforce collection of sales and income tax revenue. It is administered by the State Board of Agriculture, and is voluntary. Commercial breeders are given the choice of whether or not to apply for a license. While it is better than no bill, it does little to alleviate some of the major problems existing in the industry today, such as unscrupulous breeders moving to Oklahoma to escape required licensing and inspections.

Businesses regulated in Title 59

Accountants, architects and interior designers (59 O.S. Sec. 46.17), barbers, podiatrists (59 O.S. Sec. 159.5), chiropractors (59 O.S. Sec. 161.14), cosmetologist (59 O.S. Sec. 199.6), dentist (59 O.S. Sec. 328.49), pharmacists, morticians (59 O.S. Sec. 396.24), engineers and land surveying, allopathic physicians, physicians assistants, athletic trainers, electrologists, therapeutic recreation specialists, radiologist assistants, nurses, midwives, optometrists (59 O.S Sec. 638, specifies acts), osteopathic physicians, veterinarians (59 O.S. Sec. 698.18), healing arts therapist (59 O.S. Sec. 731.4), cleaners and dry cleaners, realtors, home inspectors ( 59 O.S. Sec. 858.632), real estate appraisers, physical therapists, occupational therapists (59 O.S. Sec. 888.15), optical goods makers (59 O.S. Sec. 946), auctioneers, construction including electricians and plumbers, water works and waste water works operators (59 O.S. Sec. 1115), sanitation and environmental specialists, foresters, social workers, bail bondsmen, psychologists (59 O.S. Sec. 1374), scrap metal dealers (59 O.S. Sec. 1425), polygraph examiners (59 O.S. Sec. 1474), pawnshop owners, precious metal and gem dealers (59 O.S. Sec. 1529), hearing aid dealers and fitters, speech pathologists and audiology (59 O.S. Sec. 1621), welders, dietitians, security guards and private investigators (59 O.S. Sec. 1750.11), alarm and locksmiths (59 O.S. Sec. 1800.16), fire extinguisher mfg. and retail, (59 O.S. Sec. 1820.29), mechanical journeymen and contractors (59 O.S. Sec. 1850.11), alcohol and drug counselors, professional counselors, marital and family therapists, behavior practioners, rent to own retail businesses, health spas (59 O.S. Sec. 2009), respiratory caregivers (59 O.S. Sec. 2044), perfusionists (59 O.S. Sec. 2052), mortgage brokers, pedorthists, orthotics and prosthetics fitters, elevator makers, anesthesiologist assistants.

Statutory authority to collect sales tax for sales of dogs and cats

There is hereby levied upon all sales, not otherwise exempted in the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code, an excise tax of four and one-half percent (4.5%) of the gross receipts or gross proceeds of each sale of the following: 1. Tangible personal property… 68 O.S. 1354, A. Even dogs and cats that are sold for resale, unless to a pet shop, are subject to sales tax, because of the difficulty in collecting sales tax from those persons is extremely difficult due to the nature of their business and the lack of record keeping. See 68 O.S. 1354, 20. Tangible personal property sold to persons, peddlers, solicitors, or other salesmen, for resale when there is likelihood that this state will lose tax revenue due to the difficulty of enforcing the provisions of the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code because of … b. the nature of the business

Dogs and cats are not exempted from sales taxes. See 68 OS Sec. 1358, A. 4.

Livestock are exempted from the sales tax levied by section 1350. Seq. of this title: However, “Livestock” shall not be construed to include any pet animals such as dogs, cats, birds or such other fur-bearing animals. 68 O.S. Sec. 1358, A.4.

Outline of SB 1712

Read the full text of SB 1712

Commercial Pet Breeders Act

Placed in Title 59, professions and occupations

Defines Commercial Pet Breeder as a person or entity possessing 11 or more adult intact females engaged in the business of breeding animals for sale.

Creates the Board of Commercial Pet Breeders, consisting of eight individuals, including the executive director.

Provides that the Board will adopt rules necessary to enforce and administer the Act

Gives the Board the authority to set fees to fund the costs of enforcing and administering the Act.

Requires annual inspection of the facility of each licensed commercial breeder, said inspection to be conducted during normal business hours.

Does not require advance notice to the breeder.

Makes it illegal to operate as a commercial breeder without a license.

Requires all applicants for licensing to possess a Sales Tax Permit, issued by the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

Requires annual renewal of the license

Requires certain actions by the Commercial Breeder.

If you have any questions about this bill, please contact Christy Counts, Executive Director of the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, at info@okhumane.org or 405-286-1503.