petMD Recognizes the Power of Presidential Pets on Dogs in Politics Day

Sep 23, 2011, 12:40 ET from

MIAMI, Sept. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- September 23rd is Dogs in Politics Day, and has set out to recognize some of the biggest names in White House dogs – beginning with Checkers, the Cocker Spaniel who started it all.

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When Richard Nixon was accused of using campaign contributions for personal use, he delivered a speech that tugged at the heartstrings of the American people. He admitted to keeping a gift for personal use – a dog his little girls named Checkers. The public was warmed by the Vice President's story and immediately began calling in to pledge their support for him. The now famous speech, delivered on September 23, 1952, became known as the Checkers speech, and the day has since been recognized as Checkers Day or more recently, Dogs in Politics Day.

The public's reaction to Nixon's speech is far from surprising. In a recent petMD survey, 66% of pet owners said they would not vote for a presidential candidate who is perceived to dislike pets. When candidates have a pet they care about, it lends a degree of tenderness that often appeals to the public.

"Our presidents show goodness of heart during their private and personal moments with the animals with which they have bonded," says Claire McLean, founder and director of the Presidential Pet Museum. "While pets are certainly not into politics, it is certain that presidents are into pets, and it is one similar interest that crosses all party lines and unites a common cause: the public's fascination with pets and the presidency."

Checkers is not the only memorable White House dog in history. Franklin D. Roosevelt's Scottish Terrier Fala was well known for following the president everywhere he went and quickly became a part of Roosevelt's public image. Fala went on to receive so many fan letters from the American public that he was eventually assigned his very own press secretary. And many believe it was Herbert Hoover's German Shepherd King Tut who sealed the president's landslide win in 1928. Hoover strategically sent autographed images of himself and King Tut to thousands of voters in an effort to win over their hearts.

The power of presidential pups continues today. Take the Obama's Portuguese Water Dog Bo, for example. The breed was at number 80 on the American Kennel Club's list of registered dogs in 2000. After the First Family adopted Bo in 2008, the breed quickly jumped to number 60 on the list in 2009 and number 55 in 2010.

32 of 43 U.S. Presidents have had a dog while in office, and several have clearly influenced their owners' careers. As man's best friend, it seems only fitting to honor these important and faithful companions with their own day in history.

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