(DOGS AND POLITICS) SAN FRANCISCO — DogPac, a political committee representing dogs and their guardians, has announced their endorsement of John Avalos for Mayor of San Francisco. Avalos has shown support for the dog community by fighting against a management plan that places a leash law on free roaming areas such as Golden Gate Park. DogPac has become a political force and their support of Avalos will strongly aid his campaign. Read on for more regarding DogPac and how they’ve become so influential. Could pet guardians have a strong political voice in other cities as well? Tell us what you think.   — Global Animal

New York Times, Gerry Shih

Dog gaurdians are raising their political voices in San Francisco.

Last week, Supervisor John Avalos, a San Francisco mayoral candidate, landed one of the city’s more coveted endorsements when he won the backing of DogPAC, a relatively new political action committee representing dozens of dog lovers’ groups citywide.

According to Bruce Wolfe, DogPAC’s ambitious president, the endorsement has a big political bite: there are, after all, an estimated 180,000 dogs in San Francisco — surpassing the 107,000 or so children.

“From Bernal Heights to Crissy Field, from east to west, there are thousands of dog owners who feel their voices aren’t being heard,” Mr. Wolfe said.

The group will send mailers and may raise money on Mr. Avalos’s behalf.

DogPAC’s foremost concern is a proposal by the National Park Service to require leashes at the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, the coastal strip that includes Fort Funston and Ocean Beach, where many owners take their pets to run free. Mr. Avalos impressed many DogPAC members in March when he led a fiery rally demanding that the city reclaim the recreational area if the park service did not back down from the leash proposal.

 The rise of DogPAC in this generally affluent, liberal hotbed may sound like “a very ‘San Francisco’ thing,” said Jason McDaniel, a professor of political science at San Francisco State University, but behind the stereotype are some hard demographic truths.

According to the 2010 census, only 13 percent of San Francisco’s population is younger than 18, the lowest proportion of children of any major city and a steep drop from 1970, when the figure was 22 percent. The city has become “this place for the relatively young, relatively affluent — a very educated place, where people are renting and delaying the family decision,” Mr. McDaniel said. “Instead, we have dogs.”

(Mr. McDaniel, who is 38 and has no children, lives in Alamo Square, he added, with Dodger, “a medium-sized retriever.”)

Meanwhile, children’s advocates worry that the city is becoming “Manhattanized,” as working-class families flee to the suburbs amid ever-rising housing prices.

“We’re noticing the diminishing power of families and children,” said Chelsea Boilard, a program director at Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, a children’s advocacy group based in San Francisco. “It’s not surprising to see dog owners gain political power.”

DogPAC members said they were disappointed that Mayor Ed Lee had not taken a more pro-dog stance. While the mayor filled out a DogPAC questionnaire, he declined to sit down for a one-on-one interview or attend a debate the group sponsored in October.

“Ed Lee’s active absence is going to quite hurt his campaign,” Mr. Wolfe warned, adding that most candidates took his group “extremely seriously.”

Dennis Herrera, the city attorney and one of Mr. Lee’s leading challengers, has a 725-word page about his positions on dog issues on his campaign Web site. “There are a lot of ways we define families in San Francisco, and dogs and animals are a part of those families,” Mr. Herrera said.

Another candidate, Bevan Dufty, the former supervisor from the Castro and Noe Valley, said dogs often occupied an important role in both gay and straight households.

“I’d see people and ask how their kids were doing, and they would immediately know I’m referring to their dogs,” he said with a laugh. “Dogs are a huge part of the fabric of our neighborhoods.”

After all, Mr. Dufty added, “we’re in the City of St Francis, the patron saint of animals.”

More New York Times News: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/us/they-bark-they-fetch-and-their-humans-vote.html

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