Best Friends Blog
 

On puppy mills and presidents

Hillary Clinton says, “We do need to do more" regarding puppy mills.The question for Hillary Clinton that grabbed a New York Times headline over the weekend wasn’t about emails or Benghazi. It was about puppy mills and, to her credit, Clinton seemed to have an informed opinion on the subject. I doubt that her staff has been prepping her on puppy mill questions.

It’s a known fact that pets tend to humanize our leaders, who can otherwise seem remote and distant from the lives of regular folks. Both Bush presidents have a genuine affection for their dogs. Even if the message of Millie having pups in the White House was not great, the fact that their dogs are very much a part of their families says a lot about them. It also helps us to identify with them: “Look, Barney poops on the lawn just like our Max!”

I like this line of questioning for our would-be leaders. Seriously. After all, puppy mills are a part of the factory-farming nightmare in this country. Isn’t that a suitable topic for a presidential candidate? It would be good to know if animals register in their value system or if they are just seen as props in our human drama.

It sure would be nice if a sensible answer to a question about the plight of animals was more of a presidential qualifier than needing to be seen with a gun!

Back to candidate Clinton, who has two mixed-breed dogs. She answered the question directly. “I share your concern about these mills,” The New York Times reports that Clinton gave a minute long response that was “generally sympathetic” – “From everything I know about them, they really are terrible places for any animal, and particularly for dogs and cats.” She added, “We do need to do more.”

Good answer! President Obama, then candidate Obama, posed for a photo with a dog rescued from a puppy mill, but then broke the rescue world’s heart when he “adopted” two purebred Portuguese water dogs. (Not that shelters are overrun with those dogs, but still …) Mitt Romney fouled out with the animal community when it became known that he had once strapped the travel kennel of his diarrhea-stricken Irish setter, Seamus, to the roof of the family station wagon for a 12-hour drive from Massachusetts to Canada.

Does her answer qualify Clinton for office? Of course not, but at least she has given some thought to an issue that matters to millions of Americans.

I think they should serve this one up to every candidate: Imagine the look on Bernie Sanders’ face and the policy wonk answer you might get. I’m sure that many would be surprised by some candidates’ love and concern for animals because one thing we have learned for sure is that the love of animals trumps political persuasion.

Speaking of trump, I’d love to hear Donald Trump’s answer to that question. I imagine it would go something like this: “When I’m president, we are going to have the best puppy mills in the world. None of these dirty little cages. They’ll be like pet resorts. You do know that all of my hotels are pet-friendly, right? It’ll be terrific. You’ll love it!”

It’s a New York thing.

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Francis Battista
Co-founder
Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Jim Hoffman

    I was excited to find your site, but when I read your blog, I was disappointed that you are praising one Presidential candidate for a meaningless answer to a legitimate question and making fun of another Presidential candidate by putting your words in his mouth. I’m now left with the impression that your site is a venue for your political views.

    • Melissa_BestFriends

      Hi Jim,

      Thank you for your note and for your feedback – we do really appreciate that and will be sure to pass along.

      Just to clarify, Best Friends does not endorse a particular candidate or political party. We remain focused on the animals, and in that spirit, we encourage and support policy related to our goal of ending the killing in America’s shelters. Our intent with this blog post was to call for more focus on animal issues (like puppy mills) among presidential candidates, no matter their political affiliation.

      Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts and for all that you do to help homeless pets.

      Sincerely,
      Melissa Miller
      Social Media Community Manager

  • junefit

    One comment, Trump’s son has gone trophy hunting in Africa, and while this isn t related to puppy mills, I have no faith that they give thought to any animal’s welfare unless it ‘s their personal dog carried around as an accessory, or a hunting dog.

  • Bobcat1234

    I agree Francis, it is terrific to hear animal welfare and our relationship with animals raised in political campaigns. With Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA, we in Maryland have made efforts to bring animal welfare into more local campaigns. I think that we do primarily get more of the vague, or nostalgic, comments than the sort of deep insights into policy problems here. But I think it is like most things, a gradual process of raising awareness in people running for office, not to forget or turn away from animal issues. I don’t think America wants elected leaders who all opt, for example, to give up pets because “campaigning leaves little time for a dog or cat.” (Not a real quote, but a sentiment that appears to be common in local races, at least). One important role of local animal welfare organizations is to ADVOCATE on behalf of our missions — which have to be advanced in politics, as well as in everyday living. Thanks very much for highlighting the Clinton Q&A. I had not seen this in most campaign coverage elsewhere!

  • Well said Robin.

  • Robin Eress

    Sorry, but that was the worst pablum I have heard in a long time. “Do more,” “Share your concern,” “terrible places.” This was no commitment or personal statement. These were verbal templates that she could have inserted almost anything in: “Do more about toilets that don’t flush,” “Share your concern about the smell,” “terrible places after four people have used them.” She doesn’t give a hoot about the mills because the puppies can’t pull a lever. And fyi, presidential dogs, all loved, go back decades, to Roosevelt’s Fala, Nixon’s Checkers, Lincoln’s Fido, Johnson’s Yuki…

    • Francis Battista

      Robin, you are a terrific writer with a biting wit. You made my wife Silva laugh out loud! Thanks for contributing to the discussion. However, it seems your complaint is like the old joke about the guy who disparages his talking dog for only pretending to be able to read. The point here is that puppy mills commanded sufficient attention of major candidate to grab a headline in the New York Times. Obviously a slow day on the campaign trail, but not long ago the questioner would have been politely ignored and the question blown off without consequence. That any candidate can riff for a minute, as the article reported, on puppy mills is a great stride forward in itself. And it is a legitamate issue.

    • Francis Battista

      Robin, you are a terrific writer with a biting wit. You made my wife Silva laugh out loud! Thanks for contributing to the discussion. However, it seems your complaint is like the old joke about the guy who disparages his talking dog for only pretending to be able to read. The point here is that puppy mills commanded sufficient attention of major candidate to grab a headline in the New York Times. Obviously a slow day on the campaign trail, but not long ago the questioner would have been politely ignored and the question blown off without consequence. That any candidate can riff for a minute, as the article reported, on puppy mills is a great stride forward in itself. And it is a legitamate issue.