Newt Gingrich even has a platform on pets

  • Pin It
While David Gregory poses foreign policy questions to the presidential candidates on "Meet the Press" and Chris Matthews queries hopefuls on economic issues, I'm concerned about the candidates' pet policies. Recently, Newt Gingrich's office was in touch to talk about his new website, www.petswithnewt.com.

As Gingrich is working to attract animal lovers -- arguably one of the largest voter blocks in America (over 65 percent of American homes have at least one pet, and most homes have more than one voter) -- another group is touting a website called www.dogsagainstromney.com.

Who thought pets could ever be an issue in the campaign?

"They should be an issue, and I take it very seriously; I always have," Gingrich told me. "When I was speaker, we changed the rules to allow people in public housing to have a pet. For a long time, there was a bias against that. People live longer, they're happier (with a pet), and live much more satisfactory lives."

Gingrich says he was an early supporter of incorporating pets into community emergency planning for disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires. He understood that lives can be lost when pet owners aren't willing to leave their homes unless they can take their pets -- and he doesn't necessarily blame them.

"Pets provide companionship, and trigger positive chemical responses in your body. People (with pets) have a stronger immune system; it's the real deal," he says.

Gingrich says he's now on the road too often to have a pet, although he and wife Callista plan to have pets in what he calls "the large public housing project on Pennsylvania Avenue. We've talked about what kind of dog we might get. Callista likes smaller dogs, and I'm much more into big dogs. My sister Susan is a passionate cat person, and I have friends who are also."

Gingrich says he's always loved animals, having grown up with them. His first dog was a Cocker Spaniel, followed by a Doberman named Kathleen's Pride of Riley. He explains his mother's name was Kathleen, and the dog came from Fort Riley. He then rattles off a long list of family pets, from the German Shepherd he had when his children were young, to the pets his kids now have with their own families. He knows them all by name and breed.

For someone who's been in the eye as long as Gingrich, you'd think everything about him was already known. Well, it turns out that if Gingrich hadn't gone into politics, instead of running for President, he'd be running a zoo. As featured on his website, Newt and Callista make it a point to visit zoos. A few years ago, the couple traveled to the Serengeti plains of East Africa.

"Seeing all these animals, I thought to myself, 'how amazing.' At a very deep level, it's quite an experience," he recalls.

You'd think that asking a conservative about "being green" and wildlife conservation might yield a different response than Gingrich gave. "I think (such concepts are) extraordinarily important," he begins. "I helped to save the tiger when I was speaker (and tiger species are even more imperiled today). I don't think any of us should casually take the risk of losing a major species. When you see these so-called 'keystone' species, it's important for us to learn what we need to help them to survive. Once they are gone, they are literally irreplaceable."

Gingrich is rarely speechless, but he didn't quite know what to say about the story behind the website and associated Facebook page, dogsagainstromney.

It seems Romney and his family went on a road trip back in 1983, and took the family dog along. The only problem was, Seamus, an Irish Setter, was consigned to a carrier strapped to the roof of the car for 12 hours - with the car reaching speeds of 50 to 70 mph. When repeatedly asked about the incident by reporters, instead of saying, "I would know better today," Romney has defended his actions.

The candidate has said Seamus actually seemed to enjoy the trip, commenting that animal rights activists are "not happy that my dog likes fresh air" and "the dog was happier away from the kids." Of course, Romney's could have been ticketed since it's illegal to travel with a dog on the roof of your car.

The only comment from Gingrich: "Bizarre, isn't it?"

(FYI: I do have something in common with David Gregory. Romney has also ignored my invitation to comment on this incident.)

(Steve Dale's NEW EBOOKS, "Good Dog!" and "Good Cat!", are available on all major eReader devices and platforms. The basic version of each book is $2.99. An enhanced version of "Good Dog!" with embedded videos is available at iTunes for $4.99. For details, check the "Good Dog!"Facebook page. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com)

  • Pin It

Local & National Video