Flagged Bill: SB 53 – State Domestic Animal – Sen. Aaron Osmond

senator aaron osmond
Sen. Aaron Osmond (Republican – South Jordan)

Every year we see a bill so small, so inconsequential, so unnecessary, that it almost appears to be a joke when first spotted on the list of proposed bills listed on the legislative website. Surely some legislative aide with a little legal know-how just slipped it in just to see if anyone is really paying attention.

While it would be (really) hilarious if that were true, it’s not the case. So let’s discuss Senator Aaron Osmond’s (Republican – West Jordan) SB 53 – State Domestic Animal.

Quite simply, Senator Osmond wants to designate the Golden Retriever as the state’s official “domestic animal.”

Now the state’s official “anything” is symbolic in nature, with no impact on our lives aside from losing a point in a nerdy political trivia game. Utah, famously, has a state cooking pot (the dutch oven), and the ever-controversial state firearm (Browning M1911). Even lesser known state symbols, such as the state’s astronomical symbol (Beehive Constellation), fruit (cherry), fish (Bonneville Cutthroat), gem (Topaz), and fossil (Allosaurus) at least have some connection to Utah.

The Golden Retrievers connection to Utah? Well…we suppose…the dogs exist in the state?

Actually, Osmond says he is running the legislation because Alli Meyer’s fourth-grade class at Daybreak Elementary (which sits in Osmond’s district) was inspired by last year’s (equally unnecessary) legislation to change the state tree from the Blue Spruce to the Quaking Aspen, and asked him to do it. Osmond, in turn, wanted to provide a hands on lesson about the legislative process to the kids.

As much as we love Shadow (“Homeward Bound”), Buddy (“Air Bud”), and Dug (“Up”)—come to think of it, that whole “SQUIRREL!” line is a bit metaphorical—, and as much as we feel increased civics education in classrooms is of vital importance to the future of our democracy, and though the change to the law is of little consequence, this is still a bad bill.

Why? For years, lawmakers have been complaining that they simply don’t have enough time during the painfully brief 45 day session every year to advance important legislation through both chambers. Though cynics may view this as a good thing, the reality is that legislation (good or bad) frequently dies thanks to time restrictions. Even for the legislation that passes, there isn’t enough time to allow a thorough public debate on the merit of proposed legislation, which frequently leads to some fast and loose lawmaking.

During last year’s Quaking Aspen debate, House members took a sizable chunk of floor time late in the session in order to basically crack jokes about the legislation—putting off other important pieces of legislation—and it is doubtful this year’s debate about a state dog will be any different.

Currently, lawmakers are debating the possiblity of extending the legislative session, a critically important discussion and one that becomes far more difficult to defend if the public hears debates about a state domestic animal.

In short, it isn’t so much that SB 53 is a bad bill in the traditional sense that it’s bad policy, but rather because it’s ludicrous to waste valuable time that could be better spent on important issues like education, transportation, health care, or any other of the myriad pressing matters the state needs to address. Though we respect Osmond’s commitment to serving the members of his district, the answer isn’t always to run legislation.

To contact Senator Osmond, Click Here or call 801-253-6853

You can track this, and all of our other flagged bills, by clicking here. Need an explanation of scores? Click Here.


Impact on Average Utahn 0-1-2-3-4-5
Need for Legislation 0-1-2-3-4-5
Lemon Score 0-1-2-3-4-5
Overall Grade C

One Reply to “Flagged Bill: SB 53 – State Domestic Animal – Sen. Aaron Osmond”

  1. Dear Mr. Haring,

    My name is Greg Carpenter and I’m writing to you in response to your piece entitled “Flagged Bill: SB 53 – State Domestic Animal – Sen. Aaron Osmond.” Before I begin, just a quick background about myself. I am the author of “What Makes Vermont Special” An in-depth look at Vermont State Symbols. I have spent a considerable amount of time in the Vermont State Library and Archives researching the history behind each of Vermont’s State symbols. In addition I have devoted a chapter in my book about how State symbols got started in America.

    I thought you might be interested to hear some details I learned while writing my book and how they relate to your article. To begin, I too have heard the anxieties around the nation about these types of bills. The three most frequent concerns I came across during my research were these bills are unimportant, a waste of lawmakers time and of little benefit to the citizens of their state.

    The “waste of time” concern is even widespread in my own State of Vermont. Through my research I was surprised in the difficultly I had finding articles or stories with any positive merits to the use of time other than the civics component for school children that you stated in your article. What I did learn is, currently Iowa has the fewest state symbols in the nation at eight and Texas has the most with more than fifty. Under the “use of valuable time theory” the Iowa legislature should have made better use their time over the years on important issues such as state spending, education, transportation and health care and not on symbol bills. On the other hand the Texas legislature shouldn’t have used their time as wisely. If this theory is right then Iowa should be one of the best places to live in the United States and Texas should be one of the worst. I had trouble proving this theory to be true. In fact I even looked at Massachusetts and South Carolina who have the next two most state symbols with the same result. Again, I could find no proof that those States had a poorer standard of living than other States.

    There was no rule of thumb about the time bills took to move through the two chambers of the legislature as they varied greatly. Some took very little time and others took much longer. I’m not sure what to make of that information. I do know that a great deal of time is devoted to state resolutions and I was unable to find any written criticism addressing this use of time.

    Concerning the “unimportant theory” on these types of bills I can’t speak directly to Utah’s symbols, as I have not studied them. But I can speak about Vermont’s. From my research I discovered Vermont’s symbols fall into the following categories: economic, cultural life, historical or environmental. Symbols such as the state winter sports or state flavor are huge to Vermont’s economy and were chosen to promote those industries. Symbols like the state animal and heritage breed of livestock were established in recognition of their historical legacy. Being “a native”-born here is important to Vermont’s cultural life. Symbols like the state bird and cold-water fish are both native to the state and is just one of the reasons for their designations. Last, the state amphibian rationale was to bring attention to environmental concerns our state is facing. Having looked at other states in New England they also seem to fall in line with these categories. My conclusion is if state history, the economy or the environment is important, then state symbols should have some value.

    As you know any good journalists should make every effort to get both sides to any story. Again, I didn’t find much written about the importance of state symbols. Was this laziness on the part of journalists to find someone knowledgeable about this topic or do none exist? Or was it something else? Facing this problem I set out to find a few people from the marketing field and ask them if state symbols are important. Here are a few examples of what they said that I included in my book.
    “Every one of Vermont’s state symbols is at the heart of what has become the state’s brand and the history of that process is both fascinating and educational. And What Makes Vermont Special connects these great symbols with the many wonderful stories you would never discover without it.” — J. Gregory Gerdel, Chief of Research and Operations, Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing.
    “Vermont state symbols have even been used to market automobiles in Vermont. The most recognized state symbol commercial now airing in the state was produced by Subaru of New England. The 2011 commercial, staring spokesperson Kelly Malone, reminds viewers about some of the “official” state symbols named in state history. Ernie Boch Jr., President of Subaru of New England, said this type of commercial has really resonated with people in both the states of Maine and Vermont.”

    In Vermont, state symbols are part of our statewide school curriculum and that wouldn’t include the civics component some schools have undertaken to pass a bill.

    I was also surprised to learn that adults were behind many of the symbols we have in our state and not children as many people might think. In addition I learned when some new designations were attempted that Vermont industry made sure they were included. Some even went as far as to hire a lobbyist to make sure they were included in the bill.

    I could find no political or financial gains for any students who worked on these types of bills. That was not true for adults.

    Finally, the benefit to citizens of their state was impossible to gather, as it is somewhat subjective. I think is safe to say that things like state spending, education, transportation and health care are far more important to the citizens of their state than state symbols. As to the educational benefits of state symbols to citizens of their state I will leave it to our democracy to decide.

    Sorry about the length of this letter but it was hard to address each one in a few lines. I hope you found this information interesting, thought provoking and enlightening. If I can answer any further questions, please feel free to contact me. And thank you for your time.


    Greg Carpenter

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