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Humane Society Of U.S. files lawsuit against Oklahoma attorney general to stop “political harassment”

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Clarification: The group filing the lawsuit is the Humane Society of the United States, not the Central Oklahoma Humane Society.

OKLAHOMA CITY- The Oklahoma attorney general's office is on the other end of a lawsuit.

The Humane Society of the United States says the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General is abusing its political power.

"The Humane Society has gathered its share of enemies over the years," former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who is representing the Humane Society of the United States, said Wednesday. "It was active in the cockfighting measure here in Oklahoma."

On Wednesday, the nation's largest animal protection organization filed a lawsuit to stop Attorney General Scott Pruitt's use of the "heavy hand of government trying to suppress the work of charitable organizations based on pure politics."

They claim the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General has harassed and vilified them for a year, improperly seeking "privileged" documents from the Humane Society of the United States.

The lawsuit claims "The Attorney General's office has not received a single complaint from any contributor to the Humane Society of the United States alleging they were misled."

The Humane Society of the United States says the Oklahoma attorney general's interest is politically motivated since he doesn't agree with the goals of the organization.

The Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General says that's not true.

Chief Assistant Attorney General Julie A. Bays says their office has received several complaints from Oklahomans who wondered if their donations to the Humane Society of the United States were actually used to help animals.

Bays says the Oklahoma attorney general has a right to know if the Humane Society of the United States is misleading donors.

"Most of the time, we don't have a problem receiving the types of documents we've requested [from charities]," she said. "So we're disappointed that they're fighting this."

Edmondson says the Humane Society of the United States has provided all materials the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General is entitled to see.

He says state law on solicitation of charitable contributions says the Humane Society of the United States is only obligated "to produce relevant nonprivileged documentary material... for examination."

Edmondson says the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General is unlawfully asking for what is actually "privileged" information, such as attorney-client communications, proprietary information or future plans of the Humane Society of the United States that they have a right to keep private.

"They are concerned about the welfare of all animals, and the people that contribute to the Humane Society know that and approve of it," he said.

The Humane Society of the United States claims "Pruitt falsely stated that the HSUS raised money under the guise of pet assistance in the wake of the devastating tornadoes that struck Moore [May 20, 2013], taking 24 human lives. The HSUS provided information to Pruitt demonstrating that the organization conducted no fundraising for the response to the tornadoes' aftermath."

Bays says the complaints they've received do not focus on the Moore Tornado aftermath fundraising.

"I think donors have a right to know when they get that solicitation in the mail, when it's got the cute puppy and cute kitty on there and is asking for $25  a month, thinking that that's helping the shelter down the road," she said, "but if you go ask the local shelters, they don't get help from the Humane Society of the U.S."

In response to that statement, the Humane Society of the United States released a list of Oklahoma groups who have received money from their donations.

The Humane Society of the United States says it has provided grants, aid and project contributions to the following organizations:

  • Enid SPCA
  • PAWS in Bristow  (foreclosure assistance grant fund)
  • Tulsa Animal Shelter (dogfighting case)
  • Blazes Tribute Equine Rescue Trainers Challenge
  • Sponsorship Claremore Dog Expo
  • OK Adopt a Dog (related to a fire that burned their property)
  • OK Save a Dog for a hoarding case involving 50 poodles
  • Oklahoma Animal Alliance (grant to assist with expenses incurred in wildfire response for Creek County)
  • 2008 – operated temporary animal shelter for victims of Picher tornado and paid for veterinary expenses of sick and injured animals
  • The HSUS Puppy Mill Campaign provided a grant to Pet Angels in 2011 to assist them in their work with puppy mill dogs
  • The HSUS Puppy Mill Campaign gave a grant in 2011 to Oklahoma Small Dog Rescue for their work in taking on puppy mill dogs
  • 2010 -paid veterinary costs for Blazes Tribute Equine Rescue  horses injured in 2010 tornado
  • 2010 - Obtained horses, paid for transport and veterinary costs for surviving horses from  wreck on Oklahoma turnpike involving a  tractor trailer rig bound for a Mexican horse slaughter plant
  • Offered rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in animal cruelty or poaching crimes in the counties of Nowata, Pittsburg, Oklahoma, Lincoln, Grady, Garvin, Okmulgee, Rogers, Washington, and Tulsa. Paid reward to Rogers County authorities for tip leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals shooting cattle with compound bow.
  • 2014 - Oklahoma Animal Alliance – for animal cruelty cases
  • 2014 -Central Oklahoma Humane Society – Pets for Life program
  • 2014 – Dogs as Family
  • 2014 – Pet Angels
  • 2014 – PAWS - OK

The Humane Society of the United States says it has also provided training, shelter and advocate outreach programs and events in the following instances:

  • Provided training on the Investigation of Animal Fighting Ventures, Animal Cruelty Investigations and Bite Prevention and Use of Non-lethal force on dogs to Oklahoma police and sheriffs – 1,300 officers trained
  • Presented First Strike Training on the connection between animal cruelty and human violence to Oklahoma District Attorneys Council and the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault – 125 attendees
  • Provided Lobby 101 Training to advocates and hosted seven annual Humane Lobby Day events at the Oklahoma State Capitol – 315 participants
  • Provided training on the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence to members of the Oklahoma Link Coalition – 20 participants
  • Annual sponsorship of the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association Training Conference
  • Annual sponsorship of Blazes Tribute Equine Rescue Trainers Challenge

It also says it has partnerships with the Kirkpatrick Oklahoma Roundtable for Animal Welfare and the Oklahoma Link Coalition.

The Humane Society of the United States says it has provided direct assistance, hands-on care, transport or placement at the following locations:

  • Assisted law enforcement in counties  throughout Oklahoma with seizure, care and placement:
    • 2005: 57 dogs from a puppy mill in Woods County - $12,000
    • 2005: 76 cats and 3 dogs from a hoarding case in Tillman County
    • 2005:17 roosters from federal cockfighting case - $2,000
    • 2007:  1,600 sheep, cattle and horses from a neglect case in Craig County  - $40,000
    • 2009: 105 Border Collies from a puppy mill in Pontotoc County - $23,000
    • 2009: 15 dogs from federal dogfighting case - $50,000
    • 2010: 15 dogs from puppy mill in Oklahoma County – $2,000
    • 2011: 52 Dogs from a hoarding case in Tuttle, OK - $8,000
    • 2011: 15 horses from a neglect case in Stephens County -  $6300
    • 2011: 13 dogs from a neglect case in Delaware County - $5,000
    • 2012: 14 horses from a neglect case in Logan County - $3,000
    • 2012:  3 horses from a neglect case in Washita County - $1000
    • 2012:  4 horses from a neglect case in Atoka County - $1,000
    • 2012:  110 Australian Shepherds from puppy mill in Harper County - $5,000
    • 2012 – Severely injured German Shepherd dog thrown from bridge - $5,000
    • 2013 – 25 horses from neglect case in LeFlore County - $1,800
    • 2013 – 63 Horses from neglect case in Seminole County $2,600

An Oklahoma judge will eventually decide whether the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General has a right to receive every document they're requesting from the Humane Society of the United States on Feb. 4.

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