Bill aims at fundraising

A proposed law that would prohibit animal-rights organizations from raising funds in this state to spend in another state or on political campaigns was endorsed unanimously by a legislative panel.

House Bill 2250 by State Rep. Brian Renegar would forbid any animal-rights charitable organization, professional fund-raiser or professional solicitor engaged by such an organization, from soliciting contributions in Oklahoma for use on “program services or functional expenses outside of this state, or for political purposes inside or outside this state.”

Renegar, D-McAlester, and Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, both indicated HB 2250 was triggered by the actions of the Humane Society of the United States after the Moore tornado of 2013. The HSUS raised “about a million dollars” from Oklahomans who were concerned about pets and livestock injured or orphaned by the twister, but the agency spent “only about $100,000” of those contributions in Oklahoma and diverted the balance elsewhere, Biggs told the House Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Renegar told the committee that his bill focuses on animal “rights” organizations rather than animal “welfare” organizations so as not to interfere with legitimate activities of PetSmart Charities and the Petco Foundation, which donate customer contributions to local animal shelters, as well as activities of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Renegar also said he included the ban on using animal-rights contributions for “political purposes” because of State Question 777, the “right to farm” issue that will appear on the general election ballot in November.

“Outside political interests will be coming into Oklahoma and spending many, many dollars fighting this” proposed constitutional amendment, the McAlester veterinarian predicted.

The Agriculture and Rural Development Committee endorsed HB 2250 by a vote of 12-0 and referred it to the calendar for a vote by the full House. Sen. Larry Boggs, R-Wilburton, is the Senate sponsor of the measure.

In March 2014 state Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a public warning about “misleading solicitations” by national animal welfare organizations “when in fact the donations of Oklahomans may go toward unrelated efforts like lobbying in other states or at the federal level.”

In addition, HumaneWatch.org revealed that only 1 percent of HSUS’s budget is donated to local animal shelters, HSUS is not affiliated with local humane societies and does not operate a single pet shelter in the United States.

“They have no connection to Oklahoma animal shelters,” Renegar told the House committee.

A HumaneWatch.org posting dated Feb. 4 indicates that according to the HSUS 2013 tax return, HSUS devoted only 1 percent of its $120 million budget to grants for local animal shelters across the nation. HSUS spent only $5,000 to $10,000 on Oklahoma animal shelters in 2014, HumaneWatch claims. Meanwhile, HSUS has more than $100 million in investments in the Caribbean, and its CEO has been paid about $4 million in salary over the past two decades, records reflect.