Jewish World Review June 3, 2002 / 22 Sivan, 5762

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Throwing your vote to the dogs | Giving new meaning to the term "election reform," a California man has registered his poodle to vote.

Barnabas, a toy poodle owned by 78-year-old Donald Miller, has been a registered Republican for two years. Miller says he never allowed the dog to vote, but it did once stain the carpet of the Lincoln bedroom during a Republican fund-raiser. (I'm pretty sure I'm making that last part up.)

Miller said he registered Barnabas with mail-in forms to show how lax California is in registering new voters. The hoax was exposed when Barnabas was called for jury duty but couldn't find a tie and jacket. (I'm making some of that up, but I can't remember which part.)

Miller has since been charged with misdemeanor vote fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Miller is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors and is trying to work out a deal in which Barnabas agrees to vote only in those elections in which one or more of the candidates is a cat.

I see a lot of merit in allowing pets to vote. When you consider the mess Floridians made of the 2000 presidential election, it's hard to imagine how domesticated animals could have made things worse. Having said that, while I have no objection to dogs, cats, iguanas and ferrets being given the right to vote, I draw the line with goldfish, as they have always struck me as having a secret agenda (massive flooding) that is not in America's bestinterests.

I am curious, however, as to how Miller knew that Barnabas was a Republican. Perhaps he let it be known that he is against excessive government intervention (dogcatchers, rabies shots, leash laws, etc.) and for private enterprise (unrestricted squirrel chasing, freedom to bark at TV doorbells, longer naps, etc.).

Like most Americans, the dogs of my acquaintance have been pretty apathetic when it comes to politics. I have repeatedly asked my dogs to share with me their opinions on a variety of issues, including Arctic oil drilling, Social Security, gun control and immigration laws, and the only response I've gotten from them is a rather wistful look at whatever I happen to be eating at the time.

Perhaps I am confusing apathy with deep contemplation and the dogs really have a better grasp of such issues as genetic engineering and missile shields than I do. (It is quite likely that your average box turtle has a better grasp of those issues than I do, but that does not mean I want a box turtle to be my next president.)

Of course, there could be a downside to giving dogs the right to vote. For one thing, they could easily be swayed by the Beef Council or any other organizations representing meat producers. It is one thing to buy a vote by promising the voter a job or an appointment to a cushy government position. It is another thing entirely to buy a vote with a slice of garlic bologna or a leftover pork chop. They could support laws making it inhumane to deny your dog a sirloin steak on weeknights and a Sunday brunch of scrambled eggs, link sausage and a side order of bacon.

Bringing politics into a dog's life might also ratchet up its anxiety levels, much like it does with people. Dogs would form political action committees and start writing long, incoherent, spittle-flecked letters to the editor. Pretty soon they, too, would become disenchanted with the system and would prefer to stay home and watch Jerry Springer on the tube rather than trudge to the polls to choose between two equally uninspiring candidates.

Now that I think about it, it's probably better for us if we don't give dogs the right to vote. It's certainly better for them.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


05/08/02 Hey, Mom, could you spare a dime?: Parents' obligations unending

© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune