INTERVIEW WITH STATE REP JOE WILKINSON: GA STATE DOG

The GA State dog is the Shelter Dog.  This is thanks to State Representative Joe Wilkinson R-Sandy Springs.  I did an interview with him at Rays on the River.

img_9162Do you have any dogs at your house?

Not at the moment.  Soon I will be adopting 2 new dogs for our home though.  I used to have a Corgi called Harmony, who was named after the Coke song (I’d like to teach the world to sing …).  I would like to get another Corgi from the same AKC breeder that I got Harmony. I will also be adopting a dog from the shelter and I’m not sure what kind of dog that will be.  My ‘grand-dog’ is a Pug and I find that a really appealing breed but I ultimately believe that dogs find us as much as we find them.

Do you have any cats at your house?

I have had 3 wonderful cats in my life.  I had Smokey for 18 years through College.  My more recent cats were Boomer and Jiggs, that I adopted from the Atlanta Humane Society.  I definitely want another cat.

Did you ever take your dog to work with you like Sheriff Conway does?

I never took my dog to work.  I’m not sure she would have enjoyed it or had the temperament for it.  I once took her to visit my son at College.  I took her to help with my son’s laundry but they did not believe she was an “assistance dog” and that got us out of doing the laundry.

How did you come up with the idea of making the Shelter Dog the State dog of Georgia?

First thing every morning I read a political newsletter written by Todd Rehm.  He always starts the newsletter by featuring adoptable dogs in the area.  His newsletter raises such awareness of adoptions and rescue groups.  I am also a bit of an amateur historian.  Now, the Colony of Georgia was founded by James Oglethorp to give people a second chance.  A second chance for religious freedom and economically.  Essentially a second chance at life.  Not for Self, but for Others was the motto of the original Georgia colony.  Putting the Adoptable Dog up as the State dog is in keeping with the original spirit of Georgia and represents a second chance in life for them.  The goal is to save animals’ lives and to enrich the lives of the families that adopt them.  Also, from a cost perspective, did you know that it costs the State and local authorities $10-$40 per day per shelter animal and Georgia shelters see about 500 000 stray animals per year.  Millions of dollars are spent every year on euthenasia and disposal of bodies.  This was not frivolous legislation.  It has drastic cost saving effects as well as the ability to enrich the lives of pet owners.

What is the very first thing you have to do to create a law?

You have to give your idea to the Legislative Council in the House and Senate.  They draft the bill.  It is then introduced and assigned to a Sub-Committee then full Committee.  It is subject to a hearing and a vote.  It then goes before the Rules Committee and if it is approved there it goes to the Floor of the House and then to the Senate.

Did anyone in the Senate not like your idea?

Two senators were opposed to the idea.  One was a breeder of Bulldogs.  The Senate blocked my bill, but it got rescued by Senator Burt Jones (R-Jackson) and was signed into law by Gov. Deal.

What have some other of your recent laws been?

I have co-authored a number of Bills through the years.  My focus is on Bills for environmental protection as well as ethics reform.  I also co-sponsored one that will see a Martin Luther King statue on the Capital grounds.

Are there any other dogs that could have been the State Dog?

Through the years there has been a lot of support for the Bulldog and Labrador breeds, but I wanted to make any dog that needed a home the State dog.

What made you think that we even needed a State Dog?

It creates a vehicle to bring attention to animal rescue and how important animals can be in a community and family.

What is your favorite dog breed?

I really like Corgis and I had a Collie growing up.  My ‘grand-dog’ is a Pug.  These are probably my favorite breeds but I like all dogs.

Do you have a funny story about any of your dogs?

My old Corgi, Harmony, was very protective of my family, to the extent that our neighbors always said she should have been named “Disharmony’! Dogs have always played an important part in my life. When I was 16 years old my dad had his 2nd stroke and I spent most of my teenage years caring for him.  My dogs filled a void in this very difficult time of my life.  As a kid I would buy seeds with any money I got.  I made a garden filled mostly with tomato plants that were very prolific.  My neighbors loved these tomatoes.  The secret was the acidity of the soil due to the ‘fertilizer’ provided by my dogs!

How many Shelters have you visited?

About 30 over the years.  I often speak at Adoption venues too.

To get all States with no State Dogs to make the Shelter Dog the State Dog what is the first thing I would have to do?

I would suggest writing to the National Council of State Legislators.

Kids Helping Shelter Animals – a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organizaton