Dogs have stood devotedly at Brits’ sides since well before the days of parliamentary democracy, so it’s no surprise many wish to bring them along as we head to polling stations to perform our civic duty. Posting photos of dogs at polling stations has become popular on social media in recent years, but are they allowed inside? Here’s our ruff guide to voting with pets…
Can I take my dog inside a polling station?
Yes, as long as you and your dog abide by the rules. According to guidance from the Electoral Commission, dogs can enter polling stations in an “accompanying” role, but they are not allowed to be “free-range” inside or to disrupt the vote.
According to the BBC, where a voter has two or more dogs and keeping control of them may be tricky while casting the ballot, polling station staff may hold the dogs’ leads.
If for any reason your dog is not allowed inside (some venues might prefer this, particularly if the polling station is somewhere that dogs are not usually allowed), don't leave them tied up outside because of the unfortunate but real risk of theft. Call or pop by the venue first to check if you are unsure.
Can I take my cat, horse, rabbit, snake with me to vote?
Horses and ponies should be tethered up outside the polling station.
No guidance has been issued by the Electoral Commission on any other animals, so it’s best to ask the presiding officers should you wish to bring your cat or other pet along with you.
Can I take a photo of my dog when I go inside the polling station to vote?
Technically yes, but it really is probably best you don’t as voting should be done in secret and it is against the law to communicate information about how someone has voted, is about to vote, or to communicate the unique ID ballot paper number; all things that may end up in the frame if you’re snapping away with booths in the background. Plus, the Electoral Commission has issued guidance to officials suggesting taking photographs should not be allowed inside polling stations at all.
Photos of dogs pictured next to polling stations signs outside the venues have become a regular trend on social media over the last few elections, so stick with #dogsatpollingstations to avoid jail time and a £5,000 fine.
Can my dog vote for me?
If you’re unable to cast your ballot you can ask someone else do so on your behalf – by proxy – but you can’t ask a dog to do this for you, unfortunately. Proxies must be over 18 and registered to vote (which probably counts your dog out).
Can I ask my dog who they think I should vote for?
Outside the polling station boundaries then sure, if you trust their opinion – but political discussion is banned once inside, so best to keep conversation limited to where your pet might like to go for a walk afterwards.
Does my dog get a vote?
Sorry, no. However, in some countries animals have stood as candidates in elections. Last year, a nine-year-old Pyrenean Mountain Dog named Duke was re-elected mayor of the town or Cormorant in Minnesota, USA. He had done such a good job that he is now serving his third term in the position. Sadly the political dream never became a reality for Giggles the pig, who was named as a candidate in the Flint, Michigan, USA, 2015 mayoral elections, but she still has a popular Facebook page.
In Britain, Catmando, a ginger and white moggy, jointly led the Official Monster Raving Loony Party for a time after both he and human candidate Howling Laud Hope received the same number of votes in a party leadership election. Catmando’s three-year joint reign came to a sad end in 2002 with his death following a car accident.
To stand as MP in the UK you must be aged 18 years or over, which unfortunately rules out most canines.