It's Official: Shelter Pets Are the State Pet of Ohio

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

adopt pet shelter

Story at-a-glance -

  • Shelter pets have been made the official state pet of Ohio in a move aimed at raising awareness about the many pets in need of forever homes
  • The designation came from Senate Bill 86 and joins similar titles in Colorado, California, Georgia, Illinois and Tennessee
  • Millions of dogs and cats enter U.S. animal shelters every year, and more than half of them will never leave
  • Both Texas and Oregon are considering making rescue pets their official state pet
  • The trend toward naming rescue pets as official state pets is an inspiring one that stands to bring millions of pets in need of homes into the limelight

Shelter pets have been made the official state pet of Ohio in a move aimed at raising awareness about the many pets in need of forever homes. The designation came from Senate Bill 86 and joins similar titles in Colorado, California, Georgia, Illinois and Tennessee.1

"This designation will help raise public awareness for shelter animals and the many shelters throughout Ohio which are full of wonderful, family-ready pets. Animal shelters and rescues always have a great selection of pets looking for new homes," the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) said in a statement.2

Millions of dogs and cats enter U.S. animal shelters every year, and more than half of them will never leave.3 Despite the high numbers of animals entering shelters annually, even more people intend to bring a pet into their homes during that time, according to HSUS’ Shelter Pet Project. This is “why we’re working to show why shelters should be your first choice and preferred way to acquire a pet,” they said.4

Choosing Shelter Pets May Help End Puppy Mills

One of the reasons why choosing shelter pets is so important is because it ensures that you’re not supporting the puppy mill industry. The majority of pet stores, as well as dogs sold online and at flea markets, get their dogs from puppy mills, which are cruel facilities where large volumes of dogs are bred and sold for profit, without regard for the animals’ welfare.

As noted by HSUS, many dogs from puppy mills are sick and unsocialized, whereas mother dogs spend their entire lives in cages. Once the breeding dogs can no longer breed, they’re abandoned or killed.5

There are 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S., which churn out 2 million puppies and keep more than 194,000 dogs just for breeding. While pet stores or sources selling puppies online may claim the dogs are from small family breeders, not puppy mills, this often isn’t the case. According to HSUS:6

“Despite what they may tell you, most pet stores do sell puppy mill puppies. Unless the store is ‘puppy-friendly’ by sourcing homeless pups from local animal shelters, you have to be very careful about pet stores' link to puppy mills.

… Many puppy millers pose as small family breeders online and in newspaper and magazine ads. The HSUS has often helped local authorities in the rescue of puppy mill dogs. In almost all cases, the puppy mills sold puppies via the internet using legitimate-looking ads or websites that made it look like the dogs came from somewhere happy and beautiful, claims that couldn't have been further from the truth.”

If you feel like you want to “rescue” a puppy mill dog, remember that the money you spend will only go to support the puppy mill industry. It’s better to report dogs raised in poor conditions to your local animal control and consider adoption first when looking for a dog (or cat) to add to your home.

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What’s It Like to Adopt a Shelter Pet?

Animal shelters can be run by private charities or government agencies, and both will have a variety of pets of different ages, sizes and personalities. You will have a chance to meet prospective pets and get acquainted with them, and you’ll be required to fill out paperwork to ensure you’ll be a good match.

Some pets may also be found via rescue groups, which typically rely on volunteers to foster their pets. In this case, you may need to set up an appointment to meet the foster animals, or you may be able to attend an adoption event that’s run in a public space, such as a pet food store.

Prior to going to the shelter, you’ll also want to have all of your paperwork in order, including proof of permission for pets if you’re leasing your property, as well as the funds to cover the adoption fee.

Making several trips to several shelters to get a feel for the emotional experience is also a good idea. Allowing yourself to meet many a variety of animals may be difficult to think about, but potentially important when looking for a forever soulmate. You should try to keep an open mind when you visit, getting to know each animal based on its personality and not just the breed type or appearance.

The pet that’s best for you may surprise you, so give all of the animals a chance. Keep in mind, too, that animals in shelters are in a stressful environment and may not reveal their true personalities until they’re in a safe, low-stress environment. Both you and your rescue pet will need time to adjust to each other but in time can develop an unbreakable bond.

More States Adopting Rescue Pets as Their Official State Pet

There are currently six states that count rescue pets as their official state pet, and both Texas and Oregon are considering it. Not all states have an official pet, and others have based them on local connections.

South Carolina’s state dog is the Boykin Spaniel, for instance, because it originated in the state to hunt wild turkeys in the swamp. Massachusetts counts the Boston terrier as its state pup, due to its namesake, the state capital, while Maryland’s state dog is the Chesapeake Bay retriever, a dog that comes from the region and loves the water.7

The trend toward naming rescue pets as official state pets is an inspiring one that stands to bring millions of pets in need of homes into the limelight. Here’s hoping that more states will continue this admirable mission!