Animal Advocacy

The Struggle for Information About Oklahoma

posted July 1st, 2010 by
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Rebel #3

Story by Ruth Steinberger

My effort to learn the number of dogs transacted by USDA Class B, or “random source” dog dealers in Oklahoma each year, specifically for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009, hit a dead end this week within the federal agency that monitors the Class B dealer licensees. The USDA’s system shields this information even from the agency itself, and it will likely, “take an act of congress,” to change it.

Oklahoma is one of the highest in the number of Class B dealers licensees in the nation (34 out of 969 active Class B licensees are located in OK) and this trade in dogs and other animals, which go to research, product testing, resale for pets and animals used in exhibits, may be even more hidden than in the puppy mill world.

The Class B underworld was exposed in undercover footage produced by Last Chance for Animals and shown in the 2003 HBO documentary Dealing Dogs.  That case involved the seizure of over 800 dogs from the Arkansas based USDA Class B dealer, CC Baird. Undercover videotapes gathered by Last Chance for Animals revealed that Baird and his associates were involved in purchasing large numbers of stolen pets for over two decades while he was licensed by USDA.  Ultimately Baird was charged by the State of Arkansas, but not by the USDA.

What I have learned is that information which reflects the number of dogs transferred by each dealer is actually collected from the dealer, but then is not forwarded to the USDA or tabulated or tracked in any way.  It is virtually impossible to find how many dogs are processed by a single dealer, much less how many are processed through a single state.  Despite the fact that wrongdoing has been exposed in the Class B system, and this wrongdoing has been exposed to congress, the system remains set up to prevent an elected official from determining numbers or seeking accountability. Some dog dealers have been tied to theft by deception, for example people called “bunchers” are known to respond to free-to-good-home advertisements posing as a prospective home and getting dogs for the dealer for a fee.

Despite a track record filled with wrongdoing, it would be virtually impossible for a law enforcement entity to use USDA transfer records if they suspect pet theft. And although a National Geographic expose’ revealed pet theft to be a problem nationwide, the numbers on the Class B dealers forms are still not tabulated.

Commenting on Class B dealers, Stephen Barthold, Director of the Center for Comparative Medicine at the University of California at Davis, was quoted in Feb 26, 2010 www.sciencemag.org as saying, “There is a minority of dealers that is totally legitimate and doing the job well.”

Class B dog dealers mainly get dogs from “random sources” to be resold.  Some supply research facilities, they also supply pet retailers, and some are exhibitors, (this includes exotic animal exhibitors).   “Random source” is supposed to mean that owners who have raised the pets actually sell the dog or cat to the dealer. However, it’s unlikely that most people would knowingly sell a dog to go to research; having no method of accountability invites, indeed almost condones, wrongdoing.

On my first attempt to find out how many Oklahoma dogs are processed by Class B dealers, I was told by USDA to submit a request through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which I did.  Two months later a letter came explaining that USDA does not collect that information.

This week I spoke with a man named Wayne at the USDA Colorado office who did not offer his last name.

Wayne said that each dealer uses a disposition form which records anywhere from one to several dogs which are transacted, and that the dealer keeps one copy, one copy goes with the dog or dogs, and a third copy is held for the inspector who, according to Wayne, picks up the forms when USDA performs their inspection. He said the inspection is “annually, bi-annually or tri-annually…”  According to him, no copy is submitted to a central USDA office, nor are any figures or basic information tabulated by the USDA. Each inspector collects and simply keeps these forms somewhere. The numbers are kept from the public by omission, continuing a lack of oversight of a system which has been wrought with fraud, theft and cruelty for decades.

Wayne explained that essentially the USDA inspectors who receive the forms do not have a mechanism for allowing the forms to provide oversight or public access, the figures on the forms are not tabulated within a database, and inspectors do not submit numbers from the disposition forms to the agency itself.    Random source dogs end up as randomly released dogs, and their fates and numbers still cannot be determined from the USDA record keeping.

As it stands now, there is no mechanism that keeps the infamous CC Baird tragedy from recurring.

Please ask your federal representatives to mandate that numbers which are already collected on USDA forms be added up and posted so that the number of dogs processed in a county, state or within our nation can no longer be hidden from the public.

– Ruth Steinberger

Photos courtesy Last Chance for Animals

It Really Works

posted May 21st, 2010 by
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Story by Ruth Steinberger

The Oklahoma Spay Network has reviewed the results of the enactment and enforcement of spay/neuter ordinances in Oklahoma cities and towns.  While the impact varies, Tulsa, Lawton and Claremore have had significant success in reducing shelter intakes through these ordinances.

One year ago, the City of Claremore passed a spay/neuter ordinance that compels pet owners to have pets sterilized or purchase an intact permit and collect sales taxes on puppies or kittens sold.  According to Claremore Senior Animal Control Officer Jennifer Cummings, the intake of litters as compared to the same time last year has dropped by roughly half.  Cummings noted that killing puppies and kittens is a tragedy that is especially hard on the staff and is a tragedy that any city can and should avoid. 

Cummings credited their success to a local, low-income spay neuter program operated by the ARK, a private animal hospital in Claremore.  The ordinance provides her officers with the ability to compel pet owners to get their pets altered and the local program enables low-income pet owners to follow through.

The 2007 passage of a strong spay/neuter ordinance in Lawton has resulted in reduced shelter intakes, reduced shelter euthanasias and an increase in owner reclaims as well.  Lawton Animal Control supervisor Rose Wilson credits the owner reclaims with the fact that once pets are spayed or neutered the owner feels some sense of investment in the pet. She also noted that owners are less likely to relinquish pets that do not develop behavior problems associated with being unneutered.

The Lawton ordinance also prohibits street sales of live animals. Lawton passed the first anti-chaining law in Oklahoma.

Lawton City Manager, Larry Mitchell said the decision to create a spay/neuter ordinance was, “A team effort to address what we felt was an excessive euthanasia rate.  This was the work of the mayor, our city council and Rose Wilson and we’re very proud of the outcome.”  Euthanasias in Lawton have declined overall by roughly 40 percent since passage of the ordinance.

The 2008 decision to begin enforcement of the Tulsa pet sterilization ordinance has also resulted in a decrease in intakes, and an increase in adoption costs have not reduced the number of animals leaving the shelter to go to new homes.  Most large cities in our region have experienced increases in intakes while Tulsa’s have gone down.  

Judy Kishner, President of SPAY Oklahoma said, “This is a matter of common sense.  A spay/neuter ordinance gets to the heart of the problem. Dogs and cats are born by the litter, but they only get homes one at a time. It does not make sense that we can stop the euthanasias adopting out one by one when they are produced in litters that can be ten or more.  Unfortunately, some people do not act responsibly without some urging by city codes.”  

For information on spay/neuter programs in Tulsa call SPAY OK at 728-3144 or 970-4222.  For programs in surrounding areas visit www.okspaynetwork.org

Maybe Fostering is the Right Choice for You.

posted May 17th, 2010 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

Adopting an abandoned or abused dog might not be a realistic possibility for everyone. But there are many local and national rescue foundations where people can foster a canine until a home is available. Have a soft spot for Chihuahuas? Maybe Bichons? Each breed has a rescue organization

Here’s a listing of some rescue foundations and how you can help foster or adopt.

Small Paws Rescue has rescued more than 1,200 Bichons in the last 12 years across the country. There are volunteers who rescue, foster and transport Bichons in each state.
To learn more or become a volunteer, visit the website at www.smallpawsrescue.org.

Sooner Golden Retriever Rescue rescues and fosters Golden Retrievers in Oklahoma. To adopt, foster or surrender a Golden Retriever, visit the website at www.sgrr.org , call the hotline at (405) 749-5700, or send snail mail to Sooner Golden Retriever Rescue, P.O. Box 57139, Oklahoma City, OK 73157-7139.

German Shepherd Rescue of Tulsa regularly shows German Shepherds needing new homes at Petco  at 71st Street between Memorial and Mingo on Saturdays. Those interested in adopting from the rescue can fill out an application at the website, www.gsrtulsa.com. Also, people can e-mail [email protected] or call 918-291-2703.

Because of You Chihuahua Rescue is a spay/neuter rescue located in Edmond. Because of You provides all medical care for rescued Chihuahuas. Visit the website at www.becauseofyourescue.org, e-mail [email protected] or send snail mail to Because Of You Chihuahua Rescue, Inc, 16008 Deer Ct., Edmond, OK 73013.

Wagoner Animal Cruelty Case Postponed

posted May 14th, 2010 by
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The hearing on Tuesday, May 11th in Wagoner regarding Summer the Boxer Puppy has now been rescheduled for a conference docket for June 1 at 3:00 p.m., Wagoner County Courthouse.   We will learn whether David Collier will accept a plea offer from the Wagoner District Attorney’s office or whether the case will go to trial.  Stay tuned for further details at okc.tulsapetsmagazine.com.

Governor Signs Puppy Mill Legislation

posted May 7th, 2010 by
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Governor Brad Henry signed the puppy mill bill into law Thursday!   A big step in the right direction for doing right by the puppies!   High volume breeding operations will now be regulated in Oklahoma, and for those legitimate hobby breeders the bill does not mean that much — it will target those operating in substandard conditions.   Thank you Governor Henry and for all those who worked so hard for years to get regulations passed for the breeding of Oklahoma’s companion animals!

S.B. 1712 is headed for the Governor!

posted April 29th, 2010 by
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Great News!The motion to reconsider SB 1712 was tabled this morning and the bill has passed.

 

From here it goes to the governor’s office to be signed into law.This is a great day for dogs in Oklahoma!Please e-mail Senator Patrick Anderson to thank him for his authorship of this important measure! His e-mail contact is [email protected] and his office phone is (405) 521-5630.

Also, remember to thank your own senator for their yes vote on SB 1712.

Thank you to all who made calls, or sent e-mails and letters to legislators during this session.

Your calls made a world of difference for Oklahoma’s dogs!

WOOF!

Contact Us[email protected]phone: 918-742-3700