Edmonton

Fetch the ballots: Meet the 9 dogs and 3 cats in ravine race for off-leash president

More than 1,000 people have already voted for Mill Creek Ravine’s first Off-Leash President, and with just two days remaining in the campaign, CBC Edmonton has everything you need to know about the candidates and their platforms.

Social media strategy could be key to winning election, political scientist says

After Devon Peterson announced his dog, Lenart, was running for off-leash president of Mill Creek Ravine, neighbours entered their own pets in the race. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Four-legged citizens of Mill Creek Ravine are taking democracy into their own paws to seek control over their destinies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 1,000 votes have already been cast in advance polls for the ravine's first off-leash president election.

With just two days left in the campaign, CBC Edmonton has everything you need to know about the candidates and their platforms.

Lenart

Lenart was the first to declare candidacy. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Lenart was the first to declare his candidacy last month with a poster at a community board in Mill Creek Ravine.

The senior dog built leadership skills and confidence while living with other animals during his youth.

"He definitely believes he deserves a space on the couch or in bed," said Devon Peterson, who is managing his campaign.

Lenart's platform promises universal basic treats, a nightly cat curfew and a 20 per cent increase in belly rubs.

Salix

Salix enjoys singing and running. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Salix, having worked as a colonel in the Canadian Army's Squirrel-Hunting division, is the only candidate with military experience under her collar. 

When she's not hunting squirrels, the fun-loving dog enjoys singing (with ukulele accompaniment) and, according to her campaign video, running.

"If she gets elected, each dog will have a 50 per cent increase in belly rubs and there will be dog treats at every garbage can," said Harris Martin-DeMoor, one of her campaign managers.

Juniper and Harris Martin-DeMoor are running Salix's presidential campaign. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Mateo 

Mateo has pledged to win the war on squirrels. (Submitted by Elly Knight)

Analysts are calling Mateo, whose campaign poster was handwritten with pencil, the underdog candidate, but his loud bark and vocal opposition of pandemic-related leash rules could set him apart from the pack.

If elected, Mateo would enact freedom to roll legislation and install belly rub stations. He has also pledged to win the war on squirrels.

Kif

Campaign manager Jodan Urlacher said Kif's rough start to life inspired him to run for public office. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Kif, a two-year-old pit bull mix, was abandoned as a sick puppy but found a home in Bonnie Doon thanks to Zoe's Animal Rescue.

"Many dogs in that situation don't fare as well as he did, so he would like to ensure that all dogs are taken care of in the community," campaign manager Jordan Urlacher told CBC News.

Kif's socialist platform promises universal vet care, free puppy school, an end to the war on dogs, affordable dog houses, demilitarizing dog police and fixing treat inequality.

His campaign stickers and Instagram account have been popular with younger voters.

Kif was abandoned as a sick puppy but found a home in Bonnie Doon thanks to Zoe's Animal Rescue. (Jordan Urlacher)

Fig

Fig promises to end limits on barking. (Corey Haberstock/CBC)

Fig's campaign poster emphasizes leadership qualities — "a good listener most of the time!" — and promises to end limits on barking.

Fig is also advocating for unlimited rabbit treats (poops) on paved and unpaved trails.

Greta and Ramses

Greta and Ramses are running as a team. (Submitted by Elly Knight)

Running as a cat-and-dog alliance, Greta and Ramses are promising belly rubs for all pets and 50 per cent more walks. Under their reign, all trees in the ravine would be sniffed and peed on equally.

Luna

Luna promises to accept every dog for who they are. (Submitted by Elly Knight)

Luna, whose campaign slogan is "walk lightly and carry a big stick," is promising free dog treats and rabbit poops if elected.

Freedom to protest (baths, for example), banning communal drinking tubs and criminalizing the humiliation of dogs are other key parts of her platform.

Chloe

Like other candidates, Chloe is promising dog park upgrades, including free treats.

She plans to make cats pay for these perks.

Tuna

Tuna has a PhD in being a good boy. (Lindsay and Brett Silzer)

Tuna, who has a PhD in being a good boy and expertise in stick procurement, promises to start an official stick registry and remove mud puddle restrictions.

Forming a government that is inclusive of all dog sizes and breeds is another important issue for him. Whether cats would be welcome in his cabinet is unclear.

Feline fringe candidates

Two cat candidates, Addie and Cocoa, are also in the race. (Troy Pavlek and Caitlin Mader)

Also running to represent the ravine are two cats, Addie and Cocoa.

Addie has yet to release a full campaign platform.

Cocoa, whose identity has been in question throughout the race, has been the subject of numerous attack ads.

Both cats' names appear on the ballot but their campaigns are being investigated by the ravine's election commissioner.

Riding analysis

According to City of Edmonton pet licensing data from the past 12 months, more than 1,800 dogs live in the neighbourhoods surrounding Mill Creek Ravine, outnumbering cats in every riding.

Click on the dog icons in the map below to see how many licensed dogs live in each neighbourhood.

King Edward Park has the most licensed dogs of any riding in the area, which could give canine candidates from the neighbourhood an advantage. That prediction assumes a positive relationship between neighbourhood dog density and voter turnout.

Another riding to watch is Old Strathcona. More than 300 dogs call this neighbourhood home, but analysts are calling it a swing riding because nearly half of licensed pets there are cats.

Linda Trimble, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, has been analyzing the candidates' social media strategy.

Candidates for off-leash president advertise on a community board in Mill Creek Ravine. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

"If most voters are regulars to the ravine, then the on-site posters may prove compelling... but if people are circulating the ballot on social media to people who don't use the ravine and are just randomly voting, then the social media campaigns may sway the day," she said.

But she said the result could also come down to looks.

"Studies show that more attractive candidates attract more votes," she said.

Election voting is open now and runs through Thursday, May 14.

About the Author

Madeleine Cummings is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton.