Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, brought a constituent from Challis to the House State Affairs Committee, who sang the praises of the cattle herding blue heeler.
Elise Fake of Challis said the Australian import is a "perfect choice" for Idaho: trustworthy, loyal, independent and brave. "The blue heeler is a common fixture on Idaho ranches, where it is said a blue heeler will do the work of three cowhands," Fake said.
But the committee voted 11-8 Monday against introducing the bill, amidst a revival of the old cattle vs. sheep rivalry that precedes statehood.
"I appreciate that the blue heeler is a good dog for cattle people, but it's not good for all breeds of livestock," said Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, who ranches both cattle and sheep.
"I've had experience with blue heelers killing sheep," he continued. "I've lost thousands and thousands of dollars to dogs getting into my sheep and German shepherds, black labs and blue heelers are the worst. I certainly wouldn't want to enshrine the blue heeler as the state dog. If we want to have a state dog, we ought to have a nice gentle dog like Lassie."
Other lawmakers were uncomfortable picking a Top Dog.
"There's lots of dog lovers in the state and they have different dogs that they love," said Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise. "I hate to discriminate one over the other."
Three of the committee's four Democrats backed introducing the bill after Boise Democratic Rep. Phylis King quipped, "I think you should have a Democrat (as a co-sponsor) on this since this is a blue dog." Democrats Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City and Cheri Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, voted with King to print the bill.
Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, joined 10 Republicans in voting against introduction.
GOP Rep. Max Black, R-Boise, backed printing the bill. Black is working on a biography of Diamondfield Jack Davis, who was convicted of murder related to an 1890s dispute over grazing between Idaho cattlemen and sheepmen.
According to Dogster.com, the blue heeler was developed by Australian George Elliott in the 1840s, by mixing native Dingoes with Collies and other herding dogs. "Australian cattlemen and ranchers loved the breed’s toughness and work ethic, and the dogs quickly became popular as cattle herders," says Dogster. "They are also called Australian Heelers, Queensland Heelers and Australian Cattle Dogs.
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