I’ve written recently about two outrageous and closely related maneuvers in Oklahoma: the first, an effort by the farm lobby and its allies in the puppy mill and cockfighting domains to pass a sweeping and overreaching constitutional amendment by referendum to establish a “right to farm,” and the second, an effort in the state legislature to bar national animal protection groups with a policy-making agenda from raising money in the state.
The Oklahoma Farm Bureau and the pork and cattle lobbies opposed an anti-cockfighting ballot measure in that state more than a decade ago, and in the years since they’ve worked to overturn the state’s ban on horse slaughter and to gut anti-puppy mill rules established not too long ago. Now they want to create a freeze-frame of the current legal standards for animals used in agriculture – no meaningful rules on puppy mills, no rules in the state on extreme confinement of farm animals, no meaningful restrictions on dumping animal waste into the environment – and they want to forbid us and a host of other organizations and stakeholders from changing those standards from this point forward.
If their right to farm measure wasn’t absurdly bold and overreaching enough, they’ve gone to their key allies in the state legislature to try to prevent us from raising money to fight them or to advance our broad animal protection agenda. They want to bar fundraising by groups who care for animals and about animals – a legislative affront so offensive that even the bill’s author conceded to Tulsa World reporter Barbara Hoberock that it “probably is” unconstitutional.
Yet while all of this anti-democratic, anti-First Amemdment activity is going on, The HSUS is not only working with just about every food retailer in the nation to eliminate extreme confinement practices everywhere, we are also working in Oklahoma itself on a wide range of lifesaving programs for other animals.
We recently conducted anti-cruelty training programs for more than 700 law enforcement personnel throughout the state. And the training is already saving lives on the ground.
Last week, after receiving training from The HSUS on how to properly investigate animal cruelty, Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant at a home and rescued eight starving horses. Unfortunately, they were too late for three horses who had already perished. A portion of the training by The HSUS dealt with equine investigations, specifically how to body-score a horse and address malnourished equines. The training also provided resources for handling a large animal seizure and helped the sheriff’s department connect with Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue who helped transport and house the horses.
In Creek County, Oklahoma, Deputy Sheriff Dru Davis found himself on a property with 28 dogs. Davis had undergone HSUS law enforcement training just days before, and with that knowledge at the top of his mind, he could readily identify signs of neglect and abuse. Most of the dogs at the private home were severely emaciated, including several malnourished nursing mothers. There were dead puppies among the living. Davis said he found contact information for Gina Gardner of the Humane Society of Tulsa, one of our Emergency Placement Partners, from his folder of HSUS resources and an evidence kit given to him at the training, and called for help. Gardner and her team helped him remove the dogs from the property: the owners relinquished 21 and the remaining were spayed and neutered and received medical treatment before being returned to the owners, with the agreement that Davis would check in regularly on their welfare. Davis said that had it not been for the HSUS training he would not have known what to do.
The folks who want to halt progress for animal welfare – whether for companion animals or horses or farm animals or any other creature in need and deserving mercy – are standing against the tide of history. When they try to push us out, we just work to become more rooted in the state. We’re focused more and more on Oklahoma, and for all the right reasons. Animals there need us, and so many people in the state really care. They won’t be intimidated by folks who want to choke off the debate about animal welfare, in order to get free rein to abuse as they please.