Why This Billionaire Took Up the Fight Against Shady Pet Breeding

The Oklahoma oil billionare Harold Hamm is someone to watch, and not just because he has a staggering net worth of $20 billion. He's ramping up his philanthropy, with his main efforts focused on diabetes, as we wrote here. The ambitious oil man and signatory of the Giving Pledge has vowed to stamp out diabetes "in our lifetime." 

But Hamm and his wife, Sue Ann, are giving away money to tackle other problems, too, including malfeasance in the shady world of pet breeding. 

According to the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, as of 2010, Oklahoma contained the second largest statewide number of commercial pet breeders. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture listed 475 registered USDA pet breeders and an estimated 600 to 1,000 unregistered ones. Central OK Humane Society contends that these unregistered pet breeders operate puppy mills that subject dogs to inhumane conditions and go unregulated. 

Why does Hamm care about any of this? Well, in fact, it's Sue Ann Hamm, an economist and lawyer, who's been the driving force in this area of the couple's philanthropy. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Central Oklahoma Humane Society and the society has received a steady stream of funding from the Hamm foundation. In 2011, Hamm gave gifts totaling around $135,000 and in 2012, $90,000.

What's notable here, though, isn't just their support of the Central OK Humane Society, but also that the couple put their financial muscle behind efforts to strengthen state regulation of pet breeders in Oklahoma.

Hamm's money help produced results, namely the 2012 Oklahoma's Commercial Pet Breeders Act. There's now a proper commercial breeders registry and the maximum fine for violating this act stands at $10,000. To read more about the details of the state law, go here

If Harold Hamm didn't have $20 billion, and hadn't signed the Giving Pledge, we wouldn't be telling you all this. But here's a guy who's pledged to part with at least half of his wealth and, through his wife's leadership, is into the important issue of pet breeding. So far the couple has only focused on Oklahoma, but our bet is that this will change in time. 

If you're working animal welfare issues, these sound like people to keep a close eye on.