When Councilor Jim Mautino raised his voice during a Public Works Committee Meeting a few weeks ago, he thought about the first dog he rescued from a breeder in the 1960s.
"That one really upset me the most," Mautino said. "This guy [a local breeder] had wrapped barbed wire around her neck because she was trying to get away from her puppies to wean them.
"And those puppies had stripped her. She was clawed up, standing there with her head down. I just couldn't believe it," he said.
Mautino and his neighbor had gone to see the breeder about the puppies but once he saw the mother dog being mistreated, he forgot about them and wanted to buy her instead.
So his neighbor made a deal with the breeder: I'll buy a pup if you sell the mother dog to Mautino.
"Boy, when I walked in the house with her, my wife just about threw me out of the house," Mautino laughed.
Soon, the dog was back in good health, and, "My two girls would play with her on the floor, and look in her eyes and ears, take her temperature," he said. "She was an amazing, amazing dog."
An early-morning meeting between politicians and bureaucrats to discuss a city ordinance change isn't usually a place for passion, but that morning, Mautino was frustrated.
For the past year and a half, Mautino has pursued a revision in a city ordinance regarding dog hobbyist and private kennel permits. Under his revision, hobbyists (typically those who raise show or hunting dogs) and dog rescuers would be separate entities requiring different licenses.
Additionally, the revised ordinance would require both types of dog lovers to get the signed support of their neighbors within 300 feet before getting a new permit.
The neighbors would have to re-sign each year, a mechanism designed to inject self-enforcement into an issue that's been notoriously difficult to police.
At the meeting, Mautino confronted Animal Welfare Director Jean Letcher with emails he obtained through the Open Records Act. Letcher had sent emails indicating that Mautino's proposed ordinance had unintended consequences and wrote, "Wagons are circling."
The Dog Father.
The District 6 councilor, who's raised two litters of German Shorthaired Pointers and taken in four rescued dogs, got into a heated argument with Working in Neighborhoods Director Dwain Midget.
During the outburst, District 3 Councilor Roscoe Turner repeatedly asked Midget to stop interrupting Mautino, who had the floor, and three councilors walked out of the meeting.
Clearly Mautino wasn't the only one who was frustrated. After Councilor Turner requested security back-up, Mautino raised his voice and asked Midget, "Do you want me to get excited? I'll get excited!"
Mautino recently told UTW, "I got a little upset at Jean because the week before we'd tried to address all her issues of unintended consequences.
"I was really surprised ... So at the meeting, I asked her that."
What happened after he brought up the emails is history. Midget defended Letcher, saying they had been trying to work with Mautino throughout the process.
Currently, Tulsans are allowed up to three dogs, and a max of five total animals (two cats and three dogs) before a permit is required.
In the July 19 meeting heard 'round the town, Mautino gave an example of someone abusing the hobbyist permit under its current stipulations: "This man had 51 adult dogs and 53 puppies -- it was a puppy mill. And he was selling these dogs."
The state of Oklahoma has the second-highest number of puppy mills in the United States, Mautino said.
In the morning committee meeting, Mautino defended his self-enforcing proposal, bringing up a rule that states you can't have more than three dogs in a yard or in kennels at a time.
"How can you enforce something like that?" he asked Letcher.
"Councilor ..." Letcher started.
"Please! I have the floor, I am speaking," Mautino fired back. He continued in a frustrated tone: "In another instance, when a rescuer has animals they're allowed to keep them for 90 days. How can we enforce that? We cannot enforce that."
Mautino is hoping to improve enforcement of the ordinance through the people most affected by a yard full of barking dogs: neighbors.
Since he re-gained the council seat in 2009, Mautino has worked to help prosecute cases of animal abuse and to get this revised ordinance passed.
The dog lover has one piece of advice to the newly married: "Animals are like kids. When people get married they ought to raise a litter of pups. That'll prepare 'em for having children."
Mautino is serious about the city's business, but talk of his hunting dogs and their quirky habits gets him laughing. He told a tale about his favorite hunting dog, Countess or Tess as they called her, who tried to retrieve fireworks which then blew up in her mouth. She survived but, said Mautino, "It took her four months to get over the sound of a gun after that.
"It took about 15 pounds of hot dogs, but she finally got over it," he laughed.
On a sober note, he said the family's rescue dog Sport, 18 years old, was euthanized just four weeks ago.
"He'd just put his head in your lap," Mautino said. With his milky, sad eyes Sport "was begging for something," though it wasn't food or to go outside.
"I agonized over it ... and decided that what he was telling us was 'do something.'" The dog was clearly in pain.
Mautino held Sport at the vet one last time before the dog was put down "and said goodbye. That's about all you can do."
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