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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Where Should that Doggie Come From? Cast Your Vote!

Sawyer_2 Benjamin Franklin said nothing is certain except death and taxes. If he were alive during a modern presidential election season, he could add polling to that list. Not that the polls themselves are certain in the accuracy of their predictions, but that we can be certain to be deluged with poll after poll over the next four months examining every aspect of the race.

Now, some of these pollsters have even surveyed people with pets. A new AP-Yahoo News survey indicates that pet owners favor John McCain over Barack Obama 42 percent to 37 percent, with dog owners particularly in McCain’s corner. It may be because more pet owners are found in demographic groups that skew toward McCain—more whites have pets than African-Americans, and more married couples have pets than single people. Or it may be because the McCains have 24 of their own critters, including four dogs, and the Obamas don’t currently have any pets.

Barack and Michelle Obama plan to change that after the election, win or lose, and have promised their daughters, Malia and Sasha, they can get a dog. So now we have a poll from the American Kennel Club asking readers to help choose a type of dog for the Obama family. The public can select from five breeds—the bichon frise, Chinese crested, miniature schnauzer, poodle, and soft-coated wheaten terrier—and the contest is open until August 19.

But animal advocates know the choice is not that simple. As Wayne Pacelle wrote, the more important question is where the dog comes from. Dogs purchased from pet stores and over the Internet come from factory-style puppy mills, where breeding adult dogs live their entire lives in filthy, wire cages. They are treated like a cash crop and receive no socialization or human interaction, making them sick, diseased and crazed with loneliness. Wonderful dogs in need of loving homes can be found at animal shelters and rescue groups—whether they are mutts or pure-bred. 

Nearly every president in recent times has had pets, and I’ve written about them here and here. Our nation’s leader can set an example as a responsible caregiver, when it comes to spaying and neutering, veterinary care, adoption, and related issues. But candidates can set a positive example as well, and can advocate for the rescue of animals in need of homes rather than adding to the problem of unwanted dogs and cats euthanized in our shelters. Barack Obama, for example, appears in a new book by Jana Kohl, “A Rare Breed of Love,” lending his voice to the fight to stop puppy mills.

So the Humane Society Legislative Fund has created our own poll. We want you to weigh in on where the Obamas should get their dog after the election—from an animal shelter, a breed rescue group, a pet store, a small breeder, or an Internet seller—and we will forward the results of our survey to the Obama campaign. Vote below to tell us what you think, and don't forget to forward the survey to your friends and family.

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