Pet legislation stirs division

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It’s hard enough getting Democrats and Republicans to come together on much of anything without throwing cats and dogs into the mix.

Our four-legged friends are getting caught in the crossfire over a bill that seeks to designate cats and dogs that have been adopted from Colorado animal shelters and rescues as the state pets.

Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, who is the sponsor of Senate Bill 201, said he wanted to recognize the “the excellent work that our rescue groups and our shelter groups do in finding homes for dogs and cats that truly need them.”

Jennifer Strickland, director of community relations and development at Golden’s Foothills Animal Shelter, said the bill “makes a lot of sense.”

“I think any opportunity to be able to bring awareness to how wonderful shelter pets can be is a great thing,” she said.

The bill will cost taxpayers just $650, in order to update state artwork and brochures, according to the Colorado Legislative Council.

Kerr said he did not want to single out specific breeds in his bill, knowing how much controversy that could have led to.

“This is a bill to bring all the factions together,” Kerr said. “Cat people and dog people can come together and support the bill.

But don’t expect certain animal groups to roll over and play dead as the bill makes its way through the Legislature.

“We don’t understand why it’s a bill,” said Dan Anglin of Anglin Public Affairs. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Anglin represents the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs, which puts on dog shows in the state, as well as the Colorado Pet Association, which represents animal breeders, retailers and groomers. He claims the bill would “create a perception” that it’s better to adopt animals from shelters, as opposed to seeking other avenues.

“This bill puts into state statute that the state pet is how you acquire it,” Anglin said.

Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, originally was a House co-sponsor of the bill, but she said she plans on removing her name from the legislation, having looked it over more closely.

Conti, a former pet groomer, said she “is very supportive of our local shelters,” but she, like Anglin, is uncomfortable in recognizing certain dog adoption groups over others.

“How about we recognize what the dog ends up doing to help society and helps people, like service dogs?” Conti said. “I’d far rather see something like that than simply focusing on where you get the pet from.”

Conti said she probably will vote no on the bill, but that she’s “not going to actively fight against it.”