While not especially common, the state dog is a symbol used by at least 13 states across the U.S.A, with several others pending legislation. Some state dogs, like the Boykin Spaniel in South Carolina, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever in Maryland, and the Boston Terrier in Massachusetts, reflect homegrown originals first developed in that state. Others, like the “working dog” in New York, are intended to honor broader categories of canines across a variety of breeds.
On January 21, 2020, New Jersey joined the ranks by bestowing the state dog designation on the Seeing Eye® dog. The Seeing Eye, based in Morristown, NJ, was first established in 1929 and is the world’s oldest existing guide dog school. Training and providing Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, and German Shepherd Dog guide dogs for the blind, the organization has been a source of pride in New Jersey for over 90 years. Each Seeing Eye dog is born and raised at the Morristown facility before being paired with a blind individual across the U.S or Canada.
“As The Seeing Eye wraps up its 90th anniversary year, we are so honored that the great state of New Jersey has recognized the important role that Seeing Eye dogs have in the lives of the people who raise, train, and own them,” said Seeing Eye President & CEO Glenn Hoagland. “When our non-profit was founded, few people believed dogs could contribute to the health and wellness of humankind in the myriad of ways they do today. The work of our founders paved the way for acceptance of assistance animals in society, eventually leading to their incorporation into the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
The state dog bill was first introduced by the late state Senator Anthony R. Bucco. It passed the New Jersey Senate and Assembly this year with unanimous bipartisan support. Vital to the bill’s passage was Anthony M. Bucco, son of the late introducer. Both Buccos, like so many New Jerseyans, recognized the importance in honoring the achievements of the state’s Seeing Eye dogs through recognition as the official state dog.
The Seeing Eye has been a pioneer in assistance animal training since its outset. Today, they continue to provide blind individuals across the country with mobility support and greater independence. In total, Seeing Eye counts over 17,000 guide dogs pairing among its success stories. Honoring Seeing Eye dogs through the state dog designation is just one small way to recognize these amazing animals.