On puppy mills and presidents

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.


Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society