Paisley to adopt furry pal for day to take part in dog of year competition
This could be the beginning of a beautiful and furry friendship.
North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley is set to adopt an abandoned dog for a day to compete in the Westminster Dog of the Year competition.
Mr Paisley will be matched with a hound from charity Dogs Trust to go up against 20 other pooches and their politicians.
But despite his reputation as a dog-lover, Mr Paisley insisted he would not be taking the canine home after the competition.
"I've always been brought up with animals," Mr Paisley told the Belfast Telegraph. "And awareness is one of the most important things I'm trying to get across."
Mr Paisley and his furry friend will compete at Victoria Tower Gardens in London for the Dog of the Year title on September 8.
They will be competing against other rescue dogs and family-owned dogs.
A panel of judges will ask each MP different questions about responsible dog ownership and decide the winner, along with the second and third places. They will also announce the winner of the "pawblic" vote, which is open now.
The judging panel will include last year's winning dog owner Andrea Jenkyns MP and the public vote winner Hugo Swire MP. Stephen Jenkinson will also represent the Kennel Club and Graeme Robertson will represent the Dogs Trust on the panel.
"I am hoping that we can not only be victorious in the competition, but that if we win, my rescue dog will find a loving home for life in the process," Mr Paisley said.
The Westminster Dog of the Year is hosted by the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust, two charities devoted to caring for and rescuing dogs in the UK.
This year's theme is the need for education to ensure children know how to interact safely with dogs.
"It's good for kids especially to learn to respect animals," Mr Paisley said.
While the DUP MP is hoping to find a home for his canine friend, he also hopes that any potential owner will be well prepared.
"Spur of the moment decisions are wrong when thinking of a pet," he said. "I think you have to be much more responsible than that. You have to make sure your kids are ready and you can take care of it and clean up after it."
Mr Paisley has made visits to the Ballymena Rehoming Centre multiple times in the past, and he also supports Dogs Trust for their work in rescuing and rehoming dogs.
His father, former DUP leader Ian, was famous for his love of dogs and had many, including Bishop, Captain, Denzel, Luther and Jason.
When his five children were growing up, Paisley Senior would take them to their local shelter to choose ill-treated or abandoned dogs for adoption. The Bannside Library in east Belfast, which holds Paisley Senior's private collection, named the sections of the library after their family dogs.
He named one of his dogs Bishop, because he hoped a four-legged bishop would be better than the two-legged bishops that he knew.
Mr Paisley Jr's love for dogs is also shown in his strong stance against animal cruelty. Earlier this year a Portglenone man avoided jailed after he starved his rottweiler-cross to death. Mr Paisley spoke out against the sentence and sent a letter to the Attorney General for Northern Ireland to review the man's punishment. He called the sentence "far too lenient" and the act itself "utterly atrocious".