Political aspects of dog and cat ownership. (feel free to edit or add to.)

The intersection of pets and politics is discussed a lot in government. My city for example has an animal control department. They enforce laws that have been passed by the city concerning keeping pets on leashes, barking dogs, enforcement licensing requirements etc. Most of the concern with animal control laws seem to be focused on population control, protecting the public, and educating people. Recently there have been two intersections of policy that have received public attention. The first is attempts to ban certain breeds of dog that many people consider dangerous. Some examples of these breeds are pit bulls, and Doberman pinchers. The second is attempts to enforce spaying and neutering of the animals that someone owns. Spaying and neutering is a process used to remove the reproductive organs or render them of being used as a form of population control. For example in Los Angeles there was a debate in 2000 concerning increasing the license fee for having a dog or cat that was not altered which is another term for spayed or neutered. (Willman) This was opposed by dog and cat breeders due to the additional cost that it puts on their ability to raise cat and dog litters (Willman).

Also there is a long history of dog ownership in the highest office in the United States. According to Christina Macejko the most popular presidential pets are dogs followed by horses. Calvin Coolidge was a dog lover. He had the following dogs; “terrier, Airedale, bulldog, Shetland sheepdog, “police dog”, “bird dog”, two Chows, and three collies.” (Macejko) Theodore Roosevelt had 5 dogs. Both of the previously mentioned presidents had two cats as well. However, it is important to be aware that these animals are used to further the humans own political image. According to “Unleashing Presidential Power: The Politics of Pets in the White House” there is statistical evidence that dogs in particular are used in politics to influence a presidents public image. In their study they found statistical evidence that dogs are hidden from public during tough economic times and are more likely to be displayed when the president’s approval numbers are high or during times of war and scandal (Maltzman, Lebovic, Saunders, and Furth). Some examples of how this is performed are provided by Christina Macejko. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt give a speech concerning criticism about sending a Navy destroyer to pick up his Scottish terrier where he deflected the criticism onto his dog Fala. Saying that Fala’s “Scotch soul was furious.” (Macejko). The speech became known as the Fala Speech. Nixon gave a similar speech which mentioned his Cocker Spaniel Checker which became known as the Checkers Speech. According to Macejko Lyndon B. Johnson caused a public outcry when he was photographed picking up his beagles by their ears. More recently during the Lewinsky scandal a chocolate lab named Buddy appeared with the Clinton family. Or during the recent election the Obama administration repeatedly brought up Romney’s family trip where the dog was strapped to the top of the car instead of riding inside of the car (Maltzman, Lebovic, Saunders, and Furth).

Willman, Martha L. “Panel Oks Tougher Rules for Unaltered Pets; Animals: Council to weigh higher fees and other curbs for dogs and cats. Goal is to reduce number of strays.” Los Angeles Times 07 Mar 2000: B.1.

“Pets and Animals” The official site of the City of Renton. 1 June 2013 <http://rentonwa.gov/living/default.aspx?id=44>

Macejko, Christina. “Pets in the White House have affected U.S. history, politics” DVM 39.10 (Oct 2008): 22

Maltzman, Forrest; Lebovic, James; Saunders, Elizabeth N, and Furth, Emma. “Unleashing Presidential Power: The Politics of Pets in the White House” Political Science & Politics 45.3 (Jul 2012): 395-400


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