The #DogsAtPollingStations started on Twitter a few years ago and is now a new British voting tradition.
Taking and sharing a photo of your dog at polling stations is no longer confined to social media. National media, both television and print, will run stories featuring our four-pawed friends. If you turn on your local news on election day you are likely to see at least one shot of a dog outside waiting for their owner to return.
But is this craze actually putting your dog at risk? How did it all start? Is it legal? We’ve put together this handy guide to answer all of your #DogsAtPollingStations questions!
What Is #DogsAtPollingStations?
It’s a craze that started on Twitter, where pet owners would post photos of their dog outside their local polling station. It has now become a regular tradition on election day, with more and more owners and their dogs taking part.
Why Do People Do It?
It’s just a bit of fun! As pet owners, we all like taking photos of our pets in ‘human situations’. And exercising our democratic right to vote is just another example!
Is Your Dog Allowed At The Polling Station?
Yes. There are currently no guidelines to stop you from taking your dog to the polling station or taking a photo of them outside of it.
But what about taking them inside?
Dogs are generally allowed inside, but it is best to check with the clerks at the polling station. The Electoral Commission says that dogs can enter polling stations in an “accompanying” role. If your dog is allowed in they must be kept on a lead at all times. They must not be “free range” and must not disrupt the vote.
If you have multiple dogs which may make it difficult to fill in a ballot paper, a member of staff is allowed to hold the lead.
What Are The Dangers?
First of all, the obvious risk is that someone could take your dog if you tie them up outside while you are inside voting. If your dog is calm and is used to being tied up outside of shops etc, you might be ok. You know how your dog reacts in these types of situations. If they are not used to being left out in public like that it could stress them out. They could pull at their lead, breaking free or end up hurting themselves. You need to think about the location where you are voting. Is it near a busy road? Are there lots of people walking past? If you are taking your dog to the polls, take someone else with you who can look after your dog while you go inside.
You also need to consider the weather! While voting only takes a matter of minutes, it’s best not to leave your dog in direct sunlight on a hot day. Take water and a travel bowl with you so that they have access to drinking water. Keep them in the shade where possible.
#DogsAtPollingStations is intended to be a bit of fun, but you should always put your dog’s needs before a photo op. If you are taking your dog along, go with someone who can watch them while you vote. If the weather is warm, make sure you have water with you so that they can drink and keep them in the shade where possible.
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