Will PETA stop Kansas 'and your little dog too'?
I was reading the top news stories of the day -- violence in Egypt after a deadly soccer riot, the U.S. jobless rate falling again, the Susan G. Komen group reversing course on funding for Planned Parenthood -- when I ran across this item: "Toto as state dog of Kansas? Bad idea, PETA says."
OK, enough about whether Israel will bomb Iran. Let's get to the tornado-in-a-teapot stuff.
Seems that state Rep. Ed Trimmer wants to make Dorothy's cairn terrier from "The Wizard of Oz" the state dog of Kansas. Harmless enough, right?
Not so, says PETA, which fears that the designation would mean that there would be more puppy mills churning out cairn terriers for folks who just have to have the official state dog.
Now normally, I find PETA a bit, well, strident. But I also agree with its stance on puppy mills. So I checked out the "state animal" listings, to see if Kansas has company.
California, as you may know, does not have a state dog. It does have a state animal -- the grizzly bear. Yes, the same one that's on the state flag -- the one we killed off, shooting the last one in 1922. (Should we ever decide to designate a state dog, I would think the breed might want to decline the honor.)
And we have a state mammal -- the gray whale. Which, of course, we also tried to kill off, though thankfully its numbers have rebounded. Also, it doesn't actually live in California, though it does visit the state's waters on its way to and from the places it does live. Which in some ways makes it the perfect metaphor for a state filled with transients, both legal and otherwise.
It also seems that California trails its nemesis, Texas, in the animal recognition race. The Lone Star State has an official flying mammal (Mexican free-tailed bat), a large state mammal (Texas longhorn), a small state animal (the armadillo, naturally), a state horse (American quarter horse, of course), and, yes, a dog (Texas Blue Lacy).
Texas, though, doesn't lead the nation in this particular form of silliness. That would be, of all places, South Carolina, which not only has a state dog (Boykin spaniel) but five other official animals (including dolphins, whales and mules).
But I digress.
Here's PETA's advice to Kansas:
PETA vice president Daphna Nachminovitch said in a news release announcing the group's opposition to Trimmer's plan. "If Kansas is set on naming an official state dog, PETA suggests the humble, healthy, and 100 percent lovable all-American mutt."
And here's the other side:
Brenda Moore of the South Central Kansas Kennel Club as among those in favor of elevating Toto's status.
"We've got to find little bits of happiness along the way," she said. "To me, the cairn terrier is as much of Kansas as sunflowers are."
And here are the facts on the ground:
In December 2010, 1,200 dogs at a large-scale breeding operation in Kansas were put to death after an outbreak of distemper. An internal government report that year said dogs were dying and living in poor conditions because of lax enforcement of puppy mills nationwide.
States vary in their laws governing puppy mills, and according to the Humane Society of the United States, Kansas requires them to be licensed and subject to inspections. But the state didn't fare well in the Humane Society's latest survey of states' treatment of animals, scoring 23 of 66 possible points and ranking 33 out of the 50 states. California topped the list; South Dakota was at the bottom.
(That would be the same South Dakota whose official state animal is the coyote.)
So, after extensive research, here's my bottom line:
"The Wizard of Oz" was, and is, a scary movie for kids. The dog is cute. I didn't know sunflowers were a big deal in Kansas. Nor do I identify the state with the cairn terrier. Actually, when I think of Kansas, I think of flat.
So I'm with PETA on this one. Want a cute dog to make you happy? Go to the pound.
It may not have been in a movie, but the one with the wagging tail is the one for you.
Photo: Dorothy and her cairn terrier Toto in "The Wizard of Oz." Credit: Turner Entertainment / Warner Bros.