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State: Dogs Would Break Ethics Rules

November 9, 2002

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CHARLESTON, West Virginia (AP) _ The West Virginia Ethics Commission ruled two state-owned bloodhounds, as public servants, cannot serve as pitchdogs in television ads for dog food.

Buckeye Feed Mills Inc. of Dalton, Ohio, provides free food for the Division of Forestry’s bloodhounds. But the commission ruled Thursday that allowing the dogs to appear in the company’s ads would violate the state Ethics Act, which bars public servants from using their public positions for their own private financial gain or the gain of others.

In this case, the dogs’ public office would be used for the company’s private gain, the commission said.

``The commission has previously held that commercial endorsement of private sector products or services by governmental agencies is acceptable only when it is a part of a program which results in overriding public benefit,″ the commission’s opinion said. ``That is not the case here.″

Forestry officials had wanted the dogs to appear in the ads to promote public awareness of the agency’s bloodhound program. The dogs are used in investigations of arson-related forest fires.

The commission’s opinions are nonbindng, but Division of Forestry spokesman Steve Young said the agency would abide by Thursday’s decision.

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