Around Oregon

Resolution declaring shelter dogs, cats the state pet sailing through the Legislature

Every state has chosen symbols to reflect its flora, fauna and people, and so it is in Oregon. 

The state has a state animal (beavers), state flower (Oregon grape) and fruit (pear). Oregon also has a state dance (square dance), beverage (milk) and motto: “She flies with her own wings.”

But alas, the state has no officially recognized pet, despite the hundreds of thousands of dogs, cats, birds, bunnies and other creatures owned by besotted Oregonians. State lawmakers are moving toward rectifying that with a proposal to declare shelter dogs and cats the state pet.

Late last month, a one-page declaration on the proposal, House Resolution 8, passed the House Committee on Rules with unanimous endorsement and then sailed through the House with 58 bipartisan votes in favor and only one opponent, Republican Rep. Jamie Cate of Lebanon.

The proposal is now in the Senate rules committee and scheduled to be discussed Thursday. 

Rep. David Gomberg, a co-chief sponsor who currently owns three rescue cats, including one three-legged kitty called Skipper, said that naming shelter pets as a state symbol would encourage adoptions, help the pets, adopting families and even taxpayers.

“We spend millions each year for food, shelter and medical care for animals in our public tax subsidized shelters,” Gomberg, D-Otis, told the Capital Chronicle in an email.

The resolution says the shelter pets and Oregonians share resilience, endurance and the ability to overcome difficulties – and declares that both embrace optimism, with many enduring “unimaginable hardship.” 

“Oregon is the land of the second chance, something every shelter dog or cat deserves,” the resolution states.

Cats awaiting adoption last November at the Ontario Feral Cat Project’s shelter in Ontario, Oregon. (Malheur Enterprise/LES ZAITZ)

Dozens of people submitted written testimony or testified in favor of the resolution, including veterinarians, pet owners and owners on behalf of their pets, lawmakers and the president and CEO of the Oregon Humane Society, Sharon Harmon. 

“Oregonians adopt more than 18,000 cats and dogs from shelters every year,” Harmon wrote. “Shelter pets embody the rugged perseverance and strength that represents Oregon’s history and are valued across the state today. Each adopted pet’s story is a story of hope and optimism, a story of finding a home, and a story of love and connection.” 

Letters in favor of the move pointed out that Oregon ranks high as a pet-friendly state (third according to BringFido, a pet-friendly travel company) and that Colorado, California, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee have also designated shelter pets as their state pet.

Gomberg expects the resolution to pass.

Two other proposals call for the recognition of a state film and vegetable. House Resolution 14 calls for declaring the 1975 movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” the state’s official film.

“The film won countless awards for its groundbreaking, humanistic portrayal of persons with mental illness,” the resolution states, and “was shot almost entirely on location at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.”

Senate Resolution 3 urges the state to adopt the potato as the official vegetable.

It says potatoes are inexpensive, grown across the state and packed with nutrients, like vitamins B6 and C and potassium, iron and fiber. They have no fat, gluten or cholesterol, it adds, but doesn’t mention carbohydrates.

Neither proposal has gained much traction. Both have been sent to their respective rules committees but they’ve not been scheduled for a discussion. 

The last time Oregon adopted a new symbol was in 2017 when the Legislature declared marionberry pie the state pie. And before that, in 2011, they proclaimed Jory soil the state soil. Found in the Willamette and Umpqua valleys, Jory soil provides a rich environment to grow other state symbols: Douglas firs, hazelnuts and Christmas trees. Despite its worthiness, soil scientists fought nearly two decades for official recognition.

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