PETA opposes making Toto state dog of Kansas

By Beccy Tanner

February 02, 2012 06:00 AM

Saying it would have deadly consequences if Kansas adopts a state dog, an official with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has written a letter to a Kansas politician, asking him to withdraw a proposal establishing the cairn terrier as the state dog.

State Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, proposed the bill, House Bill 2513, designating the cairn terrier as the official dog breed of Kansas. Toto, the dog in “The Wizard of Oz,” was a cairn. News about the proposal spread quickly throughout the nation with news reports carried on major television networks, in newspapers, on NPR and blogs such as the Huffington Post.

“If passed, HB 2513 would worsen one of Kansas’ serious problems: its reputation as a hotbed for cruel, filthy puppy mills. Naming the cairn terrier – or any breed – Kansas’ state dog would drive up demand for these dogs and entice puppy mills to churn out litter after litter of the breed, meaning fewer dogs would be adopted from your state’s animal shelters,” wrote Martin Mersereau, director of the cruelty investigation department for PETA.

Mersereau wrote that he was sending Trimmer the letter “on behalf of PETA’s more than 3 million members and supporters worldwide – including many in Kansas – to urge you to immediately withdraw House Bill 2513.”

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That’s not going to happen, Trimmer said.

“I’ve gotten more positive responses from people – people glad we are doing this,” Trimmer said. “They recognize this bill is not a super-critical piece of legislation – but that it is not harmful. Their comment that Kansas is a horrible place because of puppy mills and because we have animals in animal shelters are separate issues. I’m drawing on my past experience as a debate coach and I would make the argument for causality. I don’t see a causal relation between naming a state dog and the proliferation of puppy mills. I haven’t seen any evidence take place. They’ve overstated their position.”

Responses from Kansans to the state dog proposal have been mixed. Eagle readers responded with many suggestions for a state dog – from mongrels, greyhounds and Labradors to prairie dogs. Some, though, voiced support for the cairn terrier.

A Wendell, N.C., woman, Jo Anne L. Beckerich, wrote The Eagle an e-mail on Wednesday saying:

“Our local radio station in North Carolina alerted me. … My husband and I have had the pleasure of living with Cairn Terriers since the mid 1980s. If any testimony is needed re passing this wonderful, loving, feisty, intelligent, fun loving dog as your state dog, let me know! I would be glad to give you from-the-heart opinions on the Cairn Terrier breed! I wish that I could live in Kansas!”

PETA is the same national animal rights group that in 2009 – just days after the shooting death of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller – proposed erecting billboards in Wichita urging people on both sides of the abortion debate to go vegetarian. One version of a billboard was to say: “Pro-Life? Go Vegetarian. “The other said, “Pro-Choice? Choose Vegetarian.” Both showed pictures of baby chicks. Their request was denied by local sign companies.

In the meantime, Trimmer said, he has received requests from Kansas schoolchildren and teachers saying their classes will closely follow the bill through the legislative process.

Before any bill can become law, it must go to a committee for a hearing – in this case, the House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. If the committee approves the bill, it will go the House floor for a vote. The hearing date has not been set, Trimmer said.

Brenda Moore, obedience chairwoman with the South Central Kansas Kennel Club, who contacted Trimmer in the first place, also has heard plenty about the proposal.

“I’ve seen some negative comments, and that is sad,” Moore said. “With the economy, I know we are going through a rough time but when you try to do something fun or make some people happy, it’s bad enough. We’ve got to find little bits of happiness along the way. To me, the cairn terrier is as much of Kansas as sunflowers are.”

As for PETA asking for the bill to be withdrawn because of the state’s reputation for puppy mills, Moore said she thought that was a bit much.

“That’s people grasping at straws,” Moore said. “The thing about Kansas is that we now have laws that if people see puppy mills, we can do something about it – it used to be, we couldn’t.”