Why does Romney defend strapping his dog to the roof of the car?

  • Pin It
Romney arrives

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at an election night event at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center in Schaumburg. (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune / March 20, 2012)

We know that how we treat animals reflects the core of our characters. We know that children taught to be kind and gentle toward animals are more empathetic as adults. We also know that people who abuse animals are far more likely to abuse other people and commit violent crimes. The body of evidence on these points is now considered irrefutable.

I'm not suggesting that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was intentionally cruel to his dog back in 1983, but what he did was cruel under any definition. What strikes me as most disturbing is the presidential candidate's response today to his actions.

Seamus, the Romney family's Irish Setter, joined the family on a road trip. While it may be hard to believe, the dog traveled in a carrier strapped to the roof of the car. The car traveled at speeds averaging 50 to 70 mph for the 12-hour trip.

Romney admits this is what happened. What's more, he continually defends his actions. To me, this was an unthinkable (never mind unlawful) way to travel with a dog. But even more telling of the candidate's character are his responses to reporters' questions about the incident.

You'd think Romney's aides might have suggested he say something like, "That incident happened 29 years ago. I loved our dog, and today I know better. I would never consider traveling with our dog on the roof of the car today. I am sorry." Instead, in interviews, the candidate remains adamant that he did the right thing.

For example, in December of 2011, Romney told Chris Wallace of Fox TV: "This was a completely airtight kennel mounted on the top of our car. He climbed up there regularly... We had five kids inside the car; my guess is that he liked it a lot better on there (than with the kids)."

By the way, gratefully, the kennel wasn't airtight. If it had been, Seamus wouldn't have survived five minutes.

When Wallace reminded Romney that it's against the law in Massachusetts to travel with a dog on a car roof, his response was, "He enjoyed his ride, and whether you are in the back of a pickup truck (also illegal as a way for dogs to travel in Massachusetts) or a rooftop carrier, he enjoyed his ride. I didn't know there were any problems with that, according to the law."

According to printed reports in the Boston Globe (from back in 2007), Seamus expressed his "enjoyment" of the trip by defecating and urinating. Romney stopped at a gas station to hose off the car, then placed the dog right back on the roof.

In interview in Pittsburgh, Romney said the animal rights people aren't happy "that my dog likes fresh air."

No wonder a website (and corresponding Facebook page) www.dogsagainstromney.com was set up. Opposing candidates have questioned Romney's judgment on the canine issue. Animal lover Newt Gingrich even created a contrary website: www.petswithnewt.com.

I spoke with Gingrich, who almost always has much to say on every issue. He could only shake his head in disbelief when asked about Romney traveling with a dog on a car roof. "Bizarre isn't it?" he commented.

Even more bizarre but revealing is that Romney has never wavered in his position, and is unwillingness to admit wrong or apologize. You don't need to be a political whiz like James Carville or Mary Matalin to figure it out: Had Romney apologized, the story would have long gone away.

According to his own words, Romney believes that strapping a dog to the roof of a car is just fine. I'll end this column just as I began: How we treat animals reflects the core of our characters.

(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