University of Oklahoma College of Law: “Dog Day Afternoon” and Puppy Mill Campaign
People for Animal Welfare & Safety (P.A.W.S.) is a newly-established student organization at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and the 119th chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. Since its founding in March 2008, P.A.W.S. has worked with local animal protection organizations and shelters in a combined effort to prevent animal cruelty. This semester, P.A.W.S. has been helping to promote, support, and volunteer for the nineteenth annual “Dog Day Afternoon” fundraiser. The day-long event is put on each year in Norman, Oklahoma, by Second Chance Animal Sanctuary, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to providing abandoned, abused, or neglected dogs and cats with a safe and healthy environment in which to live while waiting for a home.
In keeping with prior Second Chance Dog Days, this year’s festivities included food, fun, and entertainment for the whole family, with dog “skill” competitions (i.e., “Best Talker,” “Best Kisser,” “Best Lap Dog Over 50 lbs”), carnival games for kids, and a flea market comprised of a wide range of vendors. Moreover, volunteers transported Second Chance dogs and cats to the venue for adoption, and by the end of the day many of them had found permanent homes. In the weeks leading up to Dog Day, P.A.W.S. members distributed flyers and put up posters all around the OU campus to publicize the event. P.A.W.S. also hosted a “Dog Day Bake Sale” at the law center, with all proceeds benefitting Second Chance. Thanks to their efforts, P.A.W.S. members were able to raise more than $200 for the shelter. In the upcoming months, P.A.W.S. will continue to work with Second Chance by organizing a pet supply donation drive to benefit the shelter. Members will be placing donation boxes around the law center for students to donate blankets, leashes, toys, and any other needed items, which P.A.W.S. will collect and bring to Second Chance.
P.A.W.S. has also tackled the horrific puppy mill problem plaguing the state of Oklahoma. Indeed, Oklahoma is the second largest producer of wholesale puppies in the nation, but because there is no state license for breeding kennels and pet dealers, breeders that sell puppies online or otherwise directly to the customer are not required to meet any standards for housing, care, or record-keeping. Being the only high volume puppy producing state to lack regulations, breeders and dealers are literally flocking to Oklahoma, as the state has seen more than a 70% increase in the number of high volume puppy producers since 2000. To address this urgent situation, P.A.W.S. has organized an ongoing letter-writing campaign urging lawmakers to take action. Specifically, the chapter is imploring state representatives to support the Pet Quality Assurance and Protection Act when it is reintroduced in the 2009 legislative session. The bill was introduced last term by Oklahoma House Representative Lee Denney (R), a congresswoman with whom P.A.W.S. has been in contact concerning the matter. The legislation was up for consideration in the Oklahoma House Agricultural Committee, but since the Committee refused to act upon it, the bill is currently dormant.
The proposed Act states that any individual who breeds or sells more than 25 dogs a year must obtain a Quality Assurance License from the state. To qualify for this license, breeders must (among other things) meet a series of basic humane requirements, including breeding standards, housing and sanitation regulations, veterinary care, exercise, socialization, and lineage certification. Furthermore, to ensure that these regulations are implemented and closely followed by licensees, the bill would create a six-person advisory committee consisting of Oklahoma residents from the animal rescue industry, the dog breeding industry, and the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association. Thus, if enacted, the legislation would dramatically hinder the operations of puppy mill owners in Oklahoma, and P.A.W.S. has put its full support behind it. As the next legislative term approaches, P.A.W.S. is eagerly awaiting the state House of Representatives’ calendar and agenda announcements and will seize the opportunity to become even more involved as February draws near.