NEW YORK — A protest outside the Westminster dog show aimed at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney drew about a dozen demonstrators Tuesday, plus a few pooches.
The half-hour lunchtime demonstration in front of Madison Square Garden took issue with Romney's oft-told story of traveling with his Irish setter, Seamus, on a family vacation in 1983. Romney has said he put the dog inside a crate and strapped it to the roof rack for a 12-hour drive from Boston to Canada.
Protest spokeswoman Kitty Hendrix said the Dogs Against Romney website that organized the demonstration has about 25,000 members. The protesters held signs that said "Mitt is Mean" and "Dogs Aren't Luggage" and "I Ride Inside."
The Westminster Kennel Club event is the most prestigious dog show in America and draws 2,000 entries. Hendrix said her group didn't want to interrupt Westminster.
"We're just using this as a backdrop," she said.
A few curious passers-by stopped to talk to the protesters, but none of the champion dogs walked by.
"Dogs don't vote!" hollered one man in a hurry.
Al Alvarez held a sign in one hand and the leash to Petey the bull terrier in the other.
"I think Romney's attitude toward dogs was indicative of his attitude toward the most vulnerable in our society," he said.
Alvarez said Petey rides in a crate in the back seat of his car because "he's always trying to shift the gears."
Tate Hausman brought 8-year-old Sake the pug in his backpack, and "she'd be very upset" to see any footage of Romney's dog on the roof. "She wouldn't approve."
American Kennel Club spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said she was aware of the Romney story.
"The AKC promotes responsible dog ownership. Putting a dog in a crate for car travel is the first step toward responsible dog ownership," she said. "The second step would be to put that crate in a car."
Republican rival Newt Gingrich has poked Romney about the episode. Gingrich's campaign put together a reel of Romney's verbal slip-ups, including a Fox News interview in which Romney said Seamus was kept in "a completely airtight kennel, mounted on the roof of our car."