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Dogs at polling stations: Pups go viral on social media as local elections get underway

Dozens of pets were spotted at polling stations with their owners  (@chris_caulfield/@nataitken)
Dozens of pets were spotted at polling stations with their owners (@chris_caulfield/@nataitken)

Britain is voting in the 2023 local elections today, which means Twitter and Instagram are awash with what has become an annual tradition... sharing pictures of dogs in or outside polling stations.

The hashtag #dogsatpollingstations was popularised at the 2015 general election and has been also seen in Australia - although sadly for British voters, the Aussie trend of holding barbecues at polling stations has not passed back over the boundary.

Political heavyweights such as Boris Johnson, Sadiq Khan and Ed Davey have all joined in the fun while casting their votes in years gone by - the latter taking the joke further by bringing his guinea pig along with him to vote.

London is not voting on Thursday but many parts of the UK are holding local elections. It has been predicted that if Labour is able to secure a 10 per cent swing over the Tories, then Rishi Sunak might be looking over his shoulder, as Tony Blair and David Cameron were able to enter Downing Street the year after similar results. The next general election is set to be one year from now.

Rupert the spaniel outside the polling station of Vauxhall ward in Tonbridge (Sheila Bell)
Rupert the spaniel outside the polling station of Vauxhall ward in Tonbridge (Sheila Bell)

Polling stations are open until 10pm. To find out how to vote or how to register for an emergency proxy, take a look at our guide. And these are the key councils to watch as Sir Keir Starmer hopes to see if his message has resonated with voters and the prime minister looks to consolidate power across the towns and shires.

Those results are likely to trickle through in the early hours of Friday morning (for more precise timings, click here) but for now, here is the more serious matter of dog-ocracy, as it has never been called. Dogs are not yet required to cast a vote - but there are some of the new voting rules which come into place this year.

Can I take my dog inside a polling station?

The Blue Cross has said that many polling stations allow dogs inside, 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,” a statement added.

The Electoral Commission has issued guidance to officials suggesting people should not allow photos inside polling stations.

Becky Thwaites, head of public affairs at Blue Cross said: “We love how dogs can get involved on polling day with #dogsatpollingstations.

"If you intend to take your dog with you to vote do check if your polling station allows dogs inside, which is much better than leaving them tied up outside and running the risk of dog theft.”

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Here are some of the highlights from #dogsatpollingstations 2023 - and please do send us your pictures if you would like your own dog (or cat, or guinea pig - we are open-minded) to be featured. Please email william.mata@standard.co.uk

Dog days have begun

Everybody remembers their first time voting.

It’s not that bad, is it?

This pooch casts a pained expression as he waits by the polling station.

A green dog?

He’s unlikely to be going vegan any time soon, but Dexter is apparently concerned by the climate crisis and is a supporter of the Green Party.

Well sat

This dog patiently waits for its photo to be taken.

Synchronised voting

These two labradors remembered their passports.

Any excuse

Rev Richard Coles did not exactly break any media fast to share this snap, but a good reminder to cherish democracy nonetheless.

How about a postal vote?

Not all dogs were so keen on voting.

Guide dogs to the aid

Dogs at polling stations is not a new phenomenon as labradors have been helping the blind for generations.

‘Election day, AKA a great day on social media’

Stevenage Council gets in the spirit

A tip from the experts

And, finally, it is possible to teach a dog of any age a new trick - or at least instruct their owner on how to behave responsibly. The Dogs Trust has issued this guidance.