President Clinton's efforts to purchase a pooch for the White House drew yelps of protest from the American Humane Association here yesterday.
The association, at its annual convention, announced a campaign to dog the president with petitions to persuade him to adopt a homeless mutt.
On two occasions this year, Mr. Clinton shopped unsuccessfully for a purebred dog, upsetting animal advocates who want the first family to patronize a shelter.
Mr. Clinton is, at present, the first dogless president since Woodrow Wilson. The Clintons' last dog, a cocker spaniel named Zeke, died three years ago and was replaced by Socks, the presidential cat.
Socks is only the ninth cat to reside in the White House. Forty-eight dogs have lived there, including mutts such as Grits Carter and Yuki Johnson, whom LBJ's daughter found at a gas station in Texas.
Mr. Clinton should follow suit on the Carters and the Johnsons, association officials say. With posters challenging the President ("Bill -- Ask not what your dog can do for you, ask what you can do for your shelter"), the association yesterday unveiled its "President Clinton Adopt-A-Mutt" campaign at the Hyatt Hotel. A petition with more than 1,000 signatures, urging him to embrace a homeless canine, was to be delivered to the White House today, followed by more appeals later.
More than 6 million unwanted dogs are euthanized in shelters each year, say animal advocates. And a presidential pardon for one lucky animal could trigger a nationwide surge in adoptions of strays, said Cathy Rosenthal, a spokeswoman for the association.
"When President Reagan said he liked jelly beans, candy sales rose. If Clinton gets a dog from a shelter, the American people will probably follow suit," said Ms. Rosenthal.
"I think he'll do it; he's a good-hearted man," said Adele Douglass, head of the association's Washington office.
The White House had no immediate comment on the Adopt-A-Mutt campaign. But shelters already are lining up to court the president, said to be partial to golden retrievers.
No problem, said Laurie McCain, of the Annapolis chapter of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "We've had at least two dozen golden retrievers this year," she said. Moreover, one-third of the Annapolis shelter's inhabitants are purebred dogs, valued at up to $1,500. They were either lost, abused or turned in by their owners.
Sarah Ince is awaiting the Clintons at her shelter, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Va. Beside her name on the petition, Ms. Ince wrote: "Fifteen minutes from the White House -- Come See Us!"
In May, Mr. Clinton offered $3,500 but was outbid for a retriever puppy at an auction at his daughter's school, according to news accounts. He then sought a retriever pup owned by a millionaire acquaintance, but was beaten out by the chairman of Revlon.
Presidents have always been enamored of canines, from George Washington, who owned a dog named Madam Moose, to George Bush, whose spaniel Millie reportedly earned more in royalties from her autobiography than her master did from his.
Calvin Coolidge had six dogs, including a collie, Prudence, who attended garden parties dressed in floppy hats made by Mrs. Coolidge. Warren Harding's dog, Laddie, had a reserved seat at Cabinet meetings.
Five dogs frequented the White House during Theodore Roosevelt's presidency. The Kennedys owned four dogs, one of them a gift from Russian premier Nikita S. Khrushchev.
At the Hyatt in Baltimore yesterday, where 600 members of the humane association ended their three-day convention, the betting was that Mr. Clinton eventually would select a shelter inmate.