NI Assembly elections 2022: can you take your dog to polling stations? Rules, advice and pictures of dogs at polling stations

Northern Ireland is preparing for the upcoming Assembly election on Thursday, May 5

By Neve Wilkinson
Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 1:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 1:17 pm

Many voters combine their trip to the polling station with their daily dog walk - and it has become popular for voters to post a picture online of their dog outside the polling station.

Find out everything you need to know about taking your dog with you to vote at the polling station.

Are dogs allowed inside polling stations?

Unfortunately, in most cases, no. Your dog will have to remain outside the polling station.

The Electoral Office for NI has confirmed that only assistance dogs will be allowed inside.

Most polling stations are schools, churches or community centres which do not usually grant access to animals.

The Electoral Office for NI would rather adults cast their vote and walk their dog separately.

Dogs at Polling Stations have become a feature of local elections

However, guidance from the Electoral Commission in the UK states that some polling stations will allow dogs inside - at the discretion of the voting officers.

If this is the cast for your local polling station, you and your dog must stick to the rules.

Your dog must stay on a lead at all times and not distract yourself or others from casting their vote.

There is also no guidance on other animals, so any decision will be at the discretion of voting officers.

Advice on taking my dog to the polling station

The majority of polling stations will not allow dogs inside, so if yours doesn’t then, please take a friend or family member to look after your dog while you cast your vote.

Do not leave your dog tied up outside or waiting in your car - this helps tackle dog theft.

If it is getting dark when you’re heading to the polling station then consider using a reflective or flashing collar so that other voters and drivers can see your dog.

Encourage your local polling station to have a water bowl for pets, or take one yourself that you don’t mind leaving there for other thirsty dogs.

If your dog isn’t friendly with other dogs, then look at the Dogs Trust behaviour advice.

Photos of dogs at polling stations

Over recent years, it has become increasingly popular for voters across the UK to post a picture of their dog at their polling station.

Dogs Trust encourages adults across the UK to take a picture of their dog at the polling station and post it on social media with #dogsatpollingstations.

However, taking a photo inside a polling station is not allowed - as this might risk the secrecy of the ballot.

If you inadvertently disclose how someone has voted, you would be breaking the law.