The state of Ohio just got a furry new mascot. As The Cincinnati Enquirer reports, shelter animals have been named the official state pet of Ohio in a bid to raise awareness about all the cats and dogs available for adoption. This means rescue pups and kittens will now be recognized alongside the state bird (northern cardinal), state mammal (white-tailed deer), and state insect (ladybug).
Shelter pets already enjoy an official "state pet" status in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, and Tennessee, and legislators in Texas and Oregon are now considering similar bills. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) praised Ohio's resolution, which was part of a sweeping Senate bill that received bipartisan support and went into effect on March 20.
"This designation will help raise public awareness for shelter animals and the many shelters throughout Ohio which are full of wonderful, family-ready pets," the HSUS said. "Animal shelters and rescues always have a great selection of pets looking for new homes."
Earlier this month, the Humane Society of Tuscarawas County, Ohio was searching for a home for a senior golden retriever named Annie and a potbelly pig named Hermione, both of whom were abandoned in the Humane Society's parking lot. A surveillance video posted to Facebook shows a man tying the dog's leash to a post, then dropping off a cage with the pig inside.
After the video went viral, both of the animals were adopted by a mother and daughter who own a farm in Louisville, Ohio. "When I first saw the golden retriever, first she kind of pulled at my heartstrings, and I was like, 'Oh, there's a pig! We have to get the pig!" the daughter, Grace Erb, told Fox affiliate WJW. "With having a farm, we've had many animals dropped off at our facility, and it's heartbreaking."
An ongoing campaign called The Shelter Pet Project—a joint effort by the HSUS and other organizations—aims to make animal shelters the first place people look once they've decided to get a pet.
[h/t The Cincinnati Enquirer]