BOISE - Idaho lawmakers have voted down a bill to declare the blue heeler the official state dog.
Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, proposed the bill, but the House State Affairs Committee this morning rejected it on an 8-11 vote.
“I’m bringing to you a piece of legislation this family had brought to me and have asked for several years that we take a look at,” Wood told the panel, introducing a constituent, Elise Fake, who gave an impassioned pitch for the blue heeler, noting its merits and that “the blue heeler is a common fixture of Idaho ranches, where it is said that one such dog will do the work of three cowhands.”
Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, said, “I appreciate the presentation here and the history that’s contained here, but I guess I always have trouble with these kinds of bills. There’s lots of dog lovers in the state, and they have lots of kinds of dogs that they love, and I hate to discriminate one over another.”
Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, said, “I appreciate that the blue heeler is a great dog for cattle people,” but he said sheep ranchers don’t share those feelings. “The worst dogs to get in sheep, and from my experience, I’ve lost thousands and thousands of dollars … German shepherds and black labs and blue heelers are the worst,” Andrus said. “So I would certainly not like to enthrone the blue heeler as the state dog. If we want to have a state dog, I would think we ought to have some nice gentle dog like Lassie.”
Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, said blue heelers are the national dog of New Zealand and Australia, and urged the committee to agree to hold a full hearing on the bill, calling the blue heeler “an amazing dog,” but adding, “I’m biased also because we have one.”
The vote meant the bill won’t even be introduced, so no hearing will be held.
Anderson said, “I do believe that the blue heeler has a great history here in Idaho that’s probably greater than any other breed.” But he and the other eight backers were outvoted.
It’s the second state-symbol bill to be proposed so far this year; HB 451, proposed earlier by Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, would declare “We Were Miners Then” by former Gov. Phil Batt to be the state poem, in commemoration of 40th anniversary of the 1972 Sunshine Mine disaster.