February 8, 2012

What would it cost to name a Kansas state dog?

“It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings. Toto was not gray; he was a little black dog, with long, silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose. Toto played all day long, and Dorothy played with him, and loved him dearly.”

– L. Frank Baum, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”

It has been 112 years since Dorothy first told her dog, Toto, they weren’t in Kansas anymore, yet the two fictional characters remain as much a part of the state as wheat, sunflowers and bison.

For better or worse, the characters from Oz are so entrenched in American culture that when Kansans visit elsewhere they often are asked, "How’s Dorothy and her little dog, Toto?"

So last month, when Brenda Moore asked State Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, for help introducing a state bill naming the cairn terrier – the same breed as Toto – as the official state dog of Kansas, she could not have predicted the firestorm that would follow.

News that Kansas was considering a state dog quickly swept around the world, carried by almost every news outlet including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Huffington Post. And then PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, entered the maelstrom, saying they were opposed to the action, fearing it would add to Kansas’ puppy mill problems.

“I just thought if we had a state grass, we needed a state dog,” said Moore, obedience chairwoman for the South Central Kansas Kennel Club in Winfield.

“I think all the dog lovers of Kansas will unite. The cairn terrier and Kansas goes together like peas in a pod. Some people don’t like the stigma of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ but to me it is a warm, fuzzy thing. It is the perfect breed for our state.”

Members of her club encourage responsible pet ownership, Moore said. They turn in anyone they suspect of having a puppy mill or being an irresponsible breeder.

While some Kansans voiced concerns over the proposal, others voiced support.

“I think there are a lot of people who want to see this go through,” Moore said. “They are pet and dog lovers and think this is cool.”

One concern is the cost to taxpayers to pass a state symbol bill.

“I get this a lot,” said Jeff Russell, director of legislative administrative services for the state of Kansas.

The answer, he said, is about $260.

“A simple bill like this is going to take about an hour of a reviser’s time to draft, check and make sure it doesn’t conflict with any existing statues,” Russell said. “The research team is then asked to provide input, for instance, how many states have an official dog? (Eleven) It’s about an hour of their time.

“And then, we figure what it costs to print 400 to 500 copies of the bill. It costs about $260 for the average two-page bill.”

In 2010, when the Kansas Legislature passed a bill naming little bluestem the state grass, it cost roughly $250. Russell said he likes to round up an extra $10 to be safe in his estimates.

Other bills, such as an omnibus bill or full funding bill, can cost thousands of dollars, he said.

“Every year we name highways or pass bills like naming the box turtle as the state reptile,” said Trimmer, the representative. “These are types of things constituents ask you to do. They don’t take up a lot of time or cost money. …

“Through the years, I’ve authored or introduced more than 100 pieces of legislation. It’s not like this is anything that is going to take away from my time or anybody else’s time.”

Trimmer said he might consider – although not this session because the deadline has already passed – introducing legislation calling for tougher penalties and restrictions for puppy mills.

“I’m not opposed to making sure we have safe conditions for puppies and dogs in breeding situations,” he said. “At the same time, I’m not one that really wants to increase a lot of government control unless there is real need.”

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