Ohio's new official state pet isn't a specific breed as it is in some states; instead it's any pet rescued from an animal shelter.

In a bid to raise awareness about the sheer number of animals in need of homes, Ohio made the legislation official last week, following the lead of a few other states including Colorado, California, Georgia, Illinois and Tennessee. It's all part of a push called The Shelter Pet Project by the Humane Society of the United States and Maddie's Fund to encourage families to visit a shelter or rescue group when they're ready to add a pet to the family.

Colorado was the first state to raise the bar on such efforts to help shelter animals in 2013.

The proposal was suggested by Colorado schoolchildren, but the process was controversial. Professional lobbyists representing purebred dog clubs, retailers, groomers and dog-show organizers argued the new designation might open up a new area for businesses transactions. Several opponents also said the shelter pets might not even be Colorado residents. They also claimed it was discriminatory to snakes, reptiles, birds and other animals.

But in the end the bill passed. The students from Peakview School in Walsenburg, Colorado, who had proposed the idea learned a lot about the legislative process, and achieved their goal along the way.

Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was originally published in May 2013.

Ohio names shelter pets the official 'state pet'
Shelter dogs and cats now hold the elevated title of 'State Pet' in Ohio and Colorado.