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Newt Gingrich's campaign is going to launch a site called "Pets With Newt," which will show his love of animals (and his softer, non-bomb-throwing side). Let's help him get started.

"As speaker I made it possible for people in public housing to keep their pets in 1988. I love pets so we’re going to have an entire project," Gingrich told ABC News' Elicia Dover. The Gingriches don't have a dog right now, but if they make it to the White House, they're going to get one, though they can't agree on its size. "When I was a child I had a cocker spaniel and Doberman pincher and German Sheppard. But we have not yet had a family conference on this topic," Gingrich told Dover. This is no election year pander. Gingrich's love of animals has plenty of photographic evidence.

In December 1994, Gingrich looked on lovingly at the Komodo Dragon he bought from the National Zoo in Washington and gave to Zoo Atlanta:

(All photos via Associated Press unless otherwise noted.)

In April 1995, Jack Hanna visited Gingrich's congressional office with this adorable 50lb Binturong bearcat:

With a red-tail hawk while visiting the Columbus, Georgia, zoo in June 1995 and looking very Jack Hanna himself:

With a boa constrictor during the same visit. Jack Hanna was there:

With Elizabeth the Ossabaw Pig on Capitol Hill in March 1996, after Congress approved the line-item veto (we are not sure how these two things are related -- pork barrel spending, perhaps? -- but it's in the original caption.)

Feeding a white Bengal tiger on Larry King Live in March 1996:

And a cockatoo -- look at the joy on his face!

On the Tonight Show in April 1996:

Critiquing the artwork of Carol the Asian Elephant at the San Diego Zoo ahead of the 1996 Republican National Convention:

With Betty White at the Los Angeles zoo in May 1996:

This undated photo appears to be taken from an official display -- maybe a zoo? Posing with Mini the Bear:

(Photo via zen via Flickr.)

With lil' baby Kimba at Zoo Atlanta in September 1997:

And like so many little kids have dreamed of, Gingrich had his birthday party at Zoo Atlanta in June 1998. That's an elephant on top:

(Photo via Reuters.)

Since leaving office, Gingrich has had fewer animal photo-ops. But his love of animals has not gone away. Here he is in 2005 posing with Bill Foster, the Birmingham zoo's CEO.

(Photo via ednoles via Flickr.)
Update: Elon Green points to his Awl post about the Republican candidates' first mention in the news. The September 1, 1954 edition of the Daily Boston Globe put this headline on its story about the little 11-year-old Gingrich: "Ambitious Zoo Keeper." Gingrich and his friends were asking the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania city council to let them start a zoo.

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