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Dogs, debris and Satan make their mark at Oklahoma capitol

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - As part of her grand plan to visit all 50 U.S. state capitols before her 70th birthday, Deidra Horan drove to Oklahoma City a few weeks ago. She toured the capitol, but that's not her most vivid memory of the trip.

Horan, 64, was attacked by four large stray dogs shortly after she left the building, and was badly bitten.

It was the latest in a series of headaches for statehouse officials that have included tumbling plaster inside the building and a battle over a monument to Satan outside the 97-year-old neoclassical structure.

Horan, a dealer in antique postcards from Colorado, suffered a deep bite on her buttock and has rung up about $22,000 in rabies shots and other medical bills.

“It was the most horrible experience in my life,” she said. “It has been a historical journey, but the visit to Oklahoma has not been nice.”

She is the second woman to have been attacked outside the capitol by marauding pit-bull-mix dogs in recent weeks. Other visitors have been chased through the grounds, narrowly escaping attack.

Vicious hounds aren't the only problems dogging the capitol. In May, members of the House media office arrived to find a chunk of plaster had fallen from the ceiling in their basement office.

Before that, the basement flooded after a drain gave way. And since 2011, scaffolding has covered the southeast entrance to help protect passersby from falling limestone.

Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, last month approved a measure authorizing a $120 million bond issue to pay for repairs. The building's condition, she said, is "a black eye for the entire state."

While the state intends to fix the building, some interest groups have plans they say will spruce up the grounds.

The Satanic Temple in New York has applied to put up a satanic statue on the statehouse lawn, making the same arguments that allowed lawmakers to approve the installation in 2012 of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds.

Other groups have jumped on the bandwagon, and there are now bids to erect a Hindu monkey god and a monument to the satirical church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The state has placed a moratorium on issuing permits for any other monuments.

"There will never be a satanic monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol, and the suggestion that there might be is absurd," said Alex Weintz, a spokesman for Governor Fallin.

Meanwhile, dogcatchers dispatched to the area have captured five stray canines.

"We think we got them all, but the dog situation in Oklahoma City is dynamic," Trace Lyons, field supervisor for Oklahoma City’s Animal Welfare Division, said this week.

"We still have five traps at the capitol that we check regularly."

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Douglas Royalty)