Oklahoma Bill to Defund Animal Welfare Organizations Dies a Merciful Death

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Through the platform of A Humane Nation, I report on so many good developments for animals -- from retailers switching to cage-free or crate-free animal products, to major companies going fur-free, to the swell of global outrage over the killing of endangered animals for trophies or profit, to the recent burst of federal rule-making actions for animals. But make no mistake, we are still in a fight for the lives of animals, and there are special interests and lawmakers beholden to them who want to thwart our progress.

I am glad to report that one very bad idea, coming out of Oklahoma, is dead, at least for now. A key Oklahoma Senate committee has chosen not to take up a bill to ban charitable giving by the state's citizens to animal welfare groups.

The bill was patently unconstitutional and could have never survived a court challenge, but it's still good news that we will not to have to endure the expense or time required to initiate a courtroom battle to address this threat.

The bill was predicated on the notion that no animal welfare group should be involved in lobbying lawmakers in support of anti-cruelty policies and that no group should work on a national scale to fight cruelty to animals. How absurd, and how transparent an attempt by these lawmakers to try to give a free ride to their allies in the cockfighting, puppy mill, and factory farming lobbies.

The Oklahoma bill would have tried to deny us funding from private citizens in support of a lifesaving raid we did weeks ago just over the state line, in Madison County, Arkansas. Our team, working with law enforcement, rescued 295 dogs who were covered in filth and feces and denied access to clean water or any kind of medical care. There was no local group to handle a crisis of this scale, and if The HSUS hadn't intervened, there would have been suffering and death for these dogs. Instead, they now will all have tender care and loving homes.

Ever since these attacks on us by a handful of Oklahoma lawmakers, we have been doubling down in the state -- doing precisely the opposite of what these lawmakers want. We have increased our staff size in Oklahoma and we are expanding our training and hands-on programs there.

Earlier this spring, we trained more than 700 law enforcement officials in investigating animal cruelty crimes. Since then, our allies in law enforcement have taken action against several animal cruelty perpetrators.

After attending the Humane Oklahoma Law Enforcement training, the Blaine County Sheriff's Office contacted us regarding an animal cruelty case involving a half dozen horses and 20 or so cattle. The owner has been charged with cruelty to animals previously and has warrants out for her arrest. We have been providing guidance and expertise for this case. Our Safe Stalls partner, Blaze's Tribute Equine Rescue in Oklahoma, assisted law enforcement for this case. We will be providing financial assistance to Blaze's for the initial expenses related to the animals' veterinary assessment and care. Blaze's has assisted with two equine cruelty cases in the last two weeks that have come in from law enforcement officials who attended our training.

We just wonder what kind of cruelty these few lawmakers are trying to protect. We know they are trying to defund opponents of their overreaching and radical "right to farm" measure (SQ 777), a battle set for this November's election ballot. And it's clear to us that they are working to unravel the state's law against cockfighting and to work against our efforts to crack down on puppy mills and extreme confinement of animals on factory farms. We won't be intimidated.

We are glad their animal welfare defunding bill is dead. We'll now turn our attention to defeating SQ 777 this fall.

This article first appeared on Wayne Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.