Northern Ireland

Assembly election: Electoral Office issues pets warning

A dog waits outside as a voter arrives at the South Belfast Polling Station Image copyright Liam McBurney
Image caption A dog waits outside as a voter arrives at the South Belfast Polling Station

Voting in the Assembly election is going to the dogs. Or rather dogs are going to the voting - too many of them.

So many, in fact, that their owners are being asked to "paws".

Dogs may not yet be entitled to vote, but they are allowed to come and watch as long as they do not disrupt the vote.

Before the 2008 London Mayoral election, polling staff were advised that dogs had to be in an accompanying role rather than "free-range".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A dog makes its way to a boathouse being used as a polling station at Groomsport

But in Northern Ireland, at this Assembly election, things may have gone too far.

In some cases, polling staff have had to stand outside polling stations holding the pets on leads while their owners go inside and vote.

Image copyright Joanne Stewart/Twitter
Image caption A dog looks on enviously as its owner goes to vote in the Lagan Valley constituency

A spokesperson for the electoral office said: "While dogs are still welcome, people should not combine their evening stroll with their pets with the task of going to vote.

"It is also worth remembering that in some cases, polling stations are in school canteens, so there is a hygiene question as well."

She stressed there is is absolutely no problem with guide dogs.