Dogs campaigning for choice need bandanas

A large group of dog owners gathered at Sandymount Strand with their canine friensd

Jim Healy, Dogs for Choice

So how does one harness the power of dogs to help fight for people’s reproductive rights? Social media really helps. Over a year before Ireland’s vote to repeal the eighth amendment, I got the idea to create accounts on various social media sites and call it Dogs For Choice. I was surprised nobody thought of the idea before. I also sounded out the idea to a few Repeal campaigners and they all thought it was a great idea. 

I started out by buying a Dogs For Choice bandana for my dog, Gabby. I brought her to a few protests with the bandana on and people loved it. Dogs are naturally photogenic but a pro-choice bandana made for an even better photo opportunity at a protest.

On International Women’s Day 2017, the Strike For Repeal event was held in Dublin’s city centre and Gabby was amongst a few other dogs hanging out at the protest. Some of those photos ended up being the first few photos to be posted on the various Dogs For Choice accounts.

Afterwards, I was 100% committed to the idea of running Dogs For Choice. The two main objectives were to use it to help get the Repeal message out and to have a fun social media channel for repealers. It also morphed into a great opportunity to raise funds for the campaign.

To raise money using Dogs For Choice, I found three main outlets. The first was the smallest and simplest…badges. Badges are everywhere during referendum campaigns. They’re cheap to make and you can make a nice profit with the mark up. I first got the very talented Kerry artist Ciara Kenny to do a profile picture logo and a banner logo. She was happy to help the campaign in any way she could with her artwork. The artwork she did was amazing and looked great on badges.

One of my fellow campaigners in my local Together 4 Yes group had a friend who made badges so that’s how I had them made initially. I then had my local group sell some at our fundraisers and also linked in with other campaigners I knew around the country and sent badges so they could sell them at their fundraisers. I was happy they were getting spread around the country but it ended up being a lot more work than it sounds. Thankfully, I got Merch Addicts, which was already selling a lot of Repeal badges online, to sell Dogs For Choice badges and I directed everybody there.

The second main outlet for raising money was Redbubble. Redbubble is a site that sells various merchandise with an artist’s artwork plastered onto it. I set it so that any proceeds when directly to the Repeal campaign. I uploaded the two pieces of artwork and Redbubble did the rest. Since I’m picky, I probably spent more time than I should have adjusting the look of all the merchandise. I didn’t really make as much money for the campaign with Redbubble as I would have liked but I did sell some stickers and clothing.

Dogs campaigning for choice need bandanas so tried to find someone who could make them and sell them online with those proceeds going to the campaign. I found someone through a Facebook group who already had an Etsy shop. She designed a bandana that was reasonably close to the Dogs For Choice logo. It seemed to sell pretty well because there were a good few dogs wearing one at the Dog Walkies event we held a few weeks before polling dog.

The Dog Walkies event was probably the big crescendo of the contribution Dogs For Choice made to the campaign. I remembered that there was a dog event held during the marriage equality campaign three years earlier. The previous event was held in Sandymound Strand so I thought this one should be held there too. I didn’t really have any strict schedule about the whole thing, I just decided we’d meet there on Sunday 13th May at noon and we’ll all just hang out.

I’m not really the party planning type so I was a bit nervous but everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves as they needed a chilled out event in the middle of all the nervous anxiety of the campaign. I got to chat with a radio journalist from Switzerland and we got some great photos and videos from the one big photo/video op we did before we dispersed. 

In the next two weeks or so, I feel like I went into hyperdrive with posting pics on social media. It felt like the more pics I posted, the more I received from campaigners. This was a nice cycle to be in as I wanted to do everything I could to keep Dogs For Choice going at that crucial time. Keeping that constant stream of content going was a lot of work but everyone was working hard at that time in the run up to polling day. Afterwards, I had a few people telling me the really appreciated the respite of dog pics and the occasional video during that very stressful time.