A comprehensive examination of Oklahoma's clandestine dog breeding industry will formally kick off Wednesday when a special interim committee holds its first meeting on the subject.
State Senator Lewis Long requested the probe of so-called "puppy mills," the term coined for assembly-line dog breeding operations notorious for their inhumane treatment of animals.
"The vast majority of dog breeders in Oklahoma are legitimate, conscientious business people who do a good job and treat their animals well. Unfortunately, there are also some folks out there who don't mind mistreating their dogs as long as they can make a buck in the process. Those are the kind of people we'll be targeting with this study," said Senator Long.
Operators of puppy mills specialize in the mass breeding of dogs. The animals are often underfed and crowded into small, unsanitary cages. Because of the conditions in which the dogs are housed and bred, their offspring can suffer from a number of health defects.
"There are a lot of horror stories out there that will just break your heart. It's really impossible to describe the conditions these dogs are forced to endure," said Long.
The Glenpool legislator said he has been contacted by dozens of concerned citizens since his study was first announced last month. The telephone calls, letters and e-mail have come from all over the country, and have ranged from reports of abuse to recommendations for legislation.
"The level of interest tells me that this may be an even bigger problem than we originally anticipated. Because puppy mills are located in remote areas, hidden from the public eye, I think there's an assumption that we don't have a problem in Oklahoma. The people I've talked to say that's not true," noted Senator Long.
The state lawmaker said he requested the interim study when he learned that Oklahoma had no specific laws addressing the issue of puppy mills. The only applicable statues relate to animal cruelty.
"There's a pretty big loophole that allows unscrupulous breeders to establish and operate puppy mills without any real oversight or regulation to protect the health of their dogs. Others states have taken steps to put puppy mills out of business, but we haven't followed suit in Oklahoma. That has to change," said Senator Long.
The first meeting of the interim committee on puppy mills will take place Wednesday morning at the State Capitol. Senator Long is inviting all interested parties to attend.
What: First meeting of the Senate Interim Committee on Puppy Mills
When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, August 18, 1999
Where: State Capitol, Rooms 419-C