What is the official dog of New York State?
There isn’t one — yet.
But state Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan) has introduced legislation, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), proposing that the shelter dog become the state’s official dog.
The designation is designed to promote the adoption of dogs from shelters.
Animal City Care and Control says it took 12,191 dogs into shelters in 2011.
“Shelter and rescue animals are unconditionally loving and loyal pets that are eager to become beloved members of a family,” Kellner said. “It’s time for New York state to throw these dogs a bone.
“My bill actually promotes the idea of rescuing animals, educates our children about rescuing animals and saves localities money,” Kellner continued.
The assemblyman said the shelter dog is symbolic of New York’s history as a haven for immigrants looking for a new home — just as man’s best friend often must.
“The rescue dog fits with New York so perfectly,” Kellner said.
Alexander Marion, a spokesman for Miller, said the legislator feels strongly about the bill “because New York has historically been the home of second chances, and he feels that we should be extending that second chance to our canine friends.”
Marion added that Miller believes the legislation would help promote pet adoption.
“That’s something we really need to do; there are a lot of dogs out there that need strong, loving homes,” Marion said.
Linda Miller, assistant director of the Ozone Park animal rescue group Bobbi and the Strays, said the organization supports the bill.
“For a long time people didn’t realize how amazing rescue dogs are, and even though more and more people are rescuing their animals instead of buying, we still need to spread the word,” Miller said. “Naming them as the state dog would bring much needed awareness to the cause. So many great, friendly, healthy animals are still dying in shelters needlessly.”
Bobbi and the Strays founder Bobbi Giordano agreed.
“New York’s dog could only be a rescue,” she said.
Miller has three rescued dogs, all pit bull mixes — Lucky Charm, Horatio, and Rockaway, the last of which received his canine good citizen certificate from the American Kennel Club and is expected to become a therapy dog soon.
“It will be great to have a rescued pit bull as a therapy dog for when we do humane education visits to schools and also just to help bring awareness to how much potential these dogs have,” Miller said.
Many Queens residents agree that a shelter dog should be the state dog.
Maspeth resident and Bobbi and the Strays volunteer Andrea Lopilato called Kellner’s bill “a great thing.”
Dora Riomayor of Howard Beach, who is the owner of Tucker, a Pembroke corgi, feels that the rescued canine would best represent the diversity of New York’s population.
Fellow Howard Beach resident Cynthia Strauss, who owns 5-year-old chocolate Labrador Coco, rescued from the ASPCA’s city shelter, agrees, though she also suggested that the beagle be considered for the title.
“They are very social dogs and do like the company of people,” she said. “Their soulful eyes and long ears make them hard to resist.”
Paul Toomey, president of K9 Korral, the group that manages the dog run in Forest Park, agrees that the rescued stray should be the state’s pick.
“Please go to a shelter, and you will save a dog’s life,” Toomey said.
However, Toomey suggested that a dog that finds and rescues people in the rubble of collapsed buildings should also be considered for the state dog.
“You can see the intelligence in their eyes; you can see the dedication; you can see the work ethic that they have,” said Toomey.
The North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, which adopts out about 20,000 dogs a year, including a large percentage to Queens residents, also supports Kellner’s bill.
“We think it is a fabulous idea to designate rescued animals as New York State’s representative breed,” said North Shore Senior Vice President of Operations Joanne Yohannan. “I think it’s an important bill because it encourages people to rescue animals and adopt.”
Flushing resident Janet Ciminelli, who is the events coordinator for North Shore Animal League, also supports Kellner’s bill.
“I think that it is a great idea and hope it goes through,” she said.“I think it’s extremely important for people to understand why adopting at a shelter is so important — that’s our mission.”
Juniper Park Civic Association President Robert Holden, of Middle Village, said it makes sense to name the shelter dog as the official state dog.
“I would be in favor of anything that would get people to adopt more animals from shelters,” Holden said.
Holden, who grew up with dogs that his family adopted from shelters, now has an 11-year-old white cat named Casper, which he adopted from the North Shore Animal League.
Others believe that a pedigreed dog should be the state’s choice.
Janice Mercadante, of Lindenwood, who babysits her daughter’s two dogs, Monte, a Burmese mountain dog, and Max, a shepherd-Labrador mix, proposed that the state dog should be a collie or a shepherd, noting that both breeds are smart and have integrity.
Dog trainer and animal behaviorist Robbie Aufrichtig, who trains many dogs in Queens, believes that the standard poodle should be the state’s choice.
“They are kind, smart and intelligent,” said Aufrichtig, adding that “they have a great temperament.”
Several other states have official dogs, including Pennsylvania, which has the Great Dane; there is the Boston terrier in Massachusetts; Alaska named the Alaskan malamute as its state dog and Maryland has the Chesapeake Bay retriever.
Even Toto, the dog in “The Wizard of Oz,” was proposed by a Kansas legislator to be the sunflower state’s official dog.
Cats have not been forgotten. Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), who has an adopted cat named Olivia, has introduced legislation to make the “rescued cat” the state’s official feline.
The mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals has thrown its support behind both bills.
In an emailed statement, Jane Hoffman, president of the Alliance, said her group “applauds the Assembly Members for supporting the message that adopting a cat or a dog from a shelter or rescue group saves a life and adds a wonderful new four-footed member to your family.”