Carmelite nuns and some of the children they teach at Villa Teresa Schools crowded into the foyer of Gov. Brad Henry’s office Friday and urged him to sign legislation that would broaden enforcement powers to stop a pit bull kennel from operating adjacent to the school.


Carmelite nuns and some of the children they teach at Villa Teresa Schools crowded into the foyer of Gov. Brad Henry’s office Friday and urged him to sign legislation that would broaden enforcement powers to stop a pit bull kennel from operating adjacent to the school.
Sister Veronica Higgins, escorted by other sisters of the Roman Catholic order as well as students at the school and their parents, filed into the lobby of Henry’s office in the latest chapter in their efforts to shut down the kennel, which they say poses a threat to the school’s young students.
“I don’t want any child to be attacked or hurt,” said Higgins, principal of the school in south Oklahoma City near Moore.
Phil Bacharach, the governor’s press secretary, accepted a letter from the nuns. The governor has until the end of next week to act on the legislation.
Higgins said no child has been hurt by a dog from the kennel, but the sisters who administer the school are alarmed by the number of pit bull attacks in the city.
“Anytime there’s noise with the children, the dogs start barking,” said Higgins, who unfurled a poster in a hallway outside the governor’s office that read “Thank You Legislature for Passing SB1754.”
“All children deserve to have a safe environment in which to learn and grow,” she said.
Higgins said the kennel’s owner, Kenneth Gonzales, moved onto property adjacent to the school about three years ago with 42 dogs. The kennel, which Higgins said is not licensed, is 1,800 feet away from the school.
The school filed a complaint with city officials, who denied Gonzales’ request for a variance from city ordinances that would allow him to continue operating. He then sued the city, which led to a settlement in which Gonzales was allowed to have up to 25 dogs at the kennel.
The bill’s author, Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, said the bill would make it illegal for a new dog kennel to be located within 2,500 feet of a public or private school or licensed day care facility in municipalities with populations greater than 300,000, which would include only Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
The bill would not prohibit existing licensed facilities from operating. But the school’s attorney, former Rep. Kevin Calvey, said that because Gonzales’ kennel is currently unlicensed it would be prohibited from having more than four dogs in the facility — the most that Oklahoma City municipal codes allow without a kennel license.
“It would give us a good night’s sleep,” Higgins said.
The bill expands the kind of civil and criminal enforcement powers the city or private individuals can exert on kennel operations, Calvey said.
Calvey said the measure has received opposition from other kennel operators who have urged Henry to veto the measure.
“Why would anybody need 25 pit bulls next to a school?” Calvey said.
Gonzales’ attorney, Mickey Homsey, said the legislation will interfere with an agreement between the city and Gonzales and a court order that authorized Gonzales to raise pit bulls.
“It’s unfortunate that the state of Oklahoma and the Legislature would tell kennels how they can operate,” Homsey said.
Homsey said the legislation involves just one kennel at a single location in the state that already has approval to operate.