A guide to election day with your pet

A guide to election day with your pet

As the UK heads to the polls today to cast their vote, many of us may be scanning the news and social media for pictures of pooches accompanying their owners to their local polling station, along with the hashtag #DogsAtPollingStations. It has become quite a phenomenon, which you might be tempted to try for yourself, but there are a few things to consider if you are planning on taking your pup (or other pets) to the polls, which is why we’ve created this short guide to navigating election day with your pet, from polling to partying or pulling an all-nighter to watch the results come in. We’ve got you covered!

Bench photo by Steve Houghton-Burnett on Unsplash

The rise of "Dogs at Polling Stations"

The trend of "Dogs at Polling Stations" started gaining momentum on social media during the 2015 UK general election. Voters began sharing photos of their dogs outside polling stations, and the trend quickly went viral, creating a charming and light-hearted aspect to election day. The hashtag #DogsAtPollingStations became a popular way for pet owners to participate in the democratic process and share their civic pride. At the time of writing this blog (just before the polls open on the 4th July!) there are more than 53 thousand posts on Instagram with the hashtag. It has also been trending on X (aka Twitter) in the run up to election day and is expected to trend there throughout election day itself. But why is it a thing?

It could be partly down to the fact that the BBC and other broadcasters in the UK are not allowed to report on election campaign details or election issues whilst the polls are open. They can tell you if MPs have arrived at a polling station and can also talk about the weather and other light hearted info – but they can’t mention manifestos or election promises or sleaze - therefore, writing about dogs at polling stations gives them something to talk about without breaking any broadcasting rules. Plus, who doesn’t want to look at lots of photos of cute pets all day long? Some people think that it’s probably the only time that the news is actually worth looking at!

Polling station sign photo by Red Dot on Unsplash

Can you take a pet inside a polling station?

Dogs are generally welcome at polling stations, but there are a few guidelines to follow. They must be kept on a lead and under control at all times. Most animals, apart from assistance dogs, are not usually allowed in polling stations (they can be left outside), but some dogs may be admitted at the discretion of the local authority.

Other pets at polling stations

Whilst dogs tend to be the stars of the show, other pets have also made appearances at polling stations. Cats, rabbits, horses and even more exotic pets like parrots have been spotted. These appearances often garner a lot of attention on social media, as people enjoy seeing the variety of animals accompanying their owners to vote.

Keeping your pet cool and comfortable

As the election day is in July, it could potentially get quite hot, particularly if you have to queue to get into the polling station. So it's important to keep your pet comfortable while you wait. The key thing is to be prepared. Here are some tips:

  • Hydration: Bring water and a portable bowl for your pet.
  • Shade: Try to find a shady spot to wait, or bring an umbrella to create your own shade.
  • Cooling Pads: Consider bringing a cooling pad or a mat for your pet to sit on, particularly if you are likely to be queuing on a hot pavement or there is nowhere comfortable for them to lie down.
Building photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

Handling queues and crowds

Polling stations can be busy, especially during peak times. If there is a queue or crowd, here’s what you can do:

  • Patience: Keep your pet calm and reassured.
  • Space: Give other voters and their pets space to avoid any stress or potential conflicts.
  • Backup Plan: If the queue is too long, consider coming back at a quieter time.

Bringing a friend

Taking someone with you can be very helpful, particularly if you don’t want to leave your dog unattended outside the polling station when you nip inside to vote. They can also help manage your pet if you need both hands free or hold your place in the queue if you need to step away briefly. Plus it’s always nice to have someone to chat with while you wait. Not all dogs are social by nature so it may be reassuring for your pup if they have an extra friendly face in attendance.

Meeting other pets

If you encounter other pets at the polling station, there are a few things you can do to make sure your dog is happy.

If the other dog is calm and friendly, allow them to greet each other, but make sure that you respect their boundaries as some dogs might be nervous or reactive, so always ask before letting your pets approach another. Make sure your dog is under control and keep a firm hold on your pet to prevent any unexpected interactions.

Stay calm and positive, as pets often pick up on their owners' emotions, and they may look to you to lead the way in an uncertain situation.

Murdock the lurcher goes to the polls

How to take a perfect picture of your pet at a polling station

Taking a photo of your pet at the polling station can be a fun way to commemorate election day. Here are a few tips for capturing a better shot:

  • Lighting: Make sure your pet is well-lit. Natural light works best, so try to take the photo outside the polling station where the light is even and flattering.
  • Background: Find an interesting or iconic background, such as the polling station sign or a vibrant wall, to add context and colour to your photo.
  • Grooming: Make sure your pet is looking their best, groomed and wearing their best collar. The Gravitis Pet Supplies Shop has everything you need for washing, drying and grooming your pet, so you’ve no excuse for them looking like Boris Johnson’s barnet on the day!
  • Angles: Get down to your pet’s eye level for a more engaging and personable shot. Experiment with different angles to find the most flattering perspective.
  • Focus: Ensure your pet is the focus of the photo. Use your phone or camera’s focus feature to keep their face sharp and clear.
  • Candid Moments: Capture candid moments of your pet sniffing around or interacting with the environment for a more natural and dynamic shot.
  • Posing: If your pet knows basic commands like “sit” or “stay,” use them to get a well-posed shot. Treats and toys can help keep their attention.
  • Timing: Take several photos to increase the chances of getting a perfect one. Pets can be unpredictable, so patience and multiple attempts might be needed. For our pics of Murdock the lurcher posing at the polling station we held him in position and pulled our hand away at the last minute!
  • Don’t force it: If your pet is really not feeling like posing up a storm, don’t force the issue. Sometimes you just can’t get that perfect shot and their wellbeing is paramount. You could always come back later with a friend to help you - and some treats. Just make sure they are comfortable rather than trying to get them to pose when they aren’t in the mood. If they are fidgety or confused, try taking them for a walk beforehand so that they feel relaxed and comfortable.

Watching election results with your pet

Once you've cast your vote, you might want to stay up to watch the election results. Here’s how to make it a cosy night with your pet:

  • Snacks: Prepare some pet-friendly snacks, like small pieces of chicken or special pet treats.
  • Comfort: Set up a comfortable space with blankets and cushions where you and your pet can relax.
  • Bonding: Use the time to bond with your pet, giving them plenty of attention and affection.
Watching TV photo by Andres Ayrton on Pexels

Celebrating or commiserating with your pet

Whether the results are what you hoped for or not, your pet can be a great source of comfort or joy:

  • Celebration: If you're celebrating, include your pet in the fun with some extra playtime or a special treat.
  • Commiseration: If the results are disappointing, snuggle up with your pet and take comfort in their presence. Pets have a wonderful way of lifting our spirits.

We think pets can add a delightful element to your election experience and with a bit of planning and consideration, you can ensure that both of you can have a positive and stress-free election day. From standing in line at the polling station to watching the results roll in, your furry friend can be a loyal companion throughout the democratic process. Just remember, if you’re voting today in the UK, don’t forget to take your ID!

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