An example of Mitt Romney's crisis management skills has turned into something of a political problem for the Republican presidential contender.
Romney placed his family dog, an Irish setter named Seamus, into a kennel lashed to the top of his station wagon for a 12-hour family trip from Boston to Ontario in 1983. Despite being shielded by a wind screen the former Massachusetts governor erected, Seamus expressed his discomfort with a diarrhea attack.
Now the story, recounted this week in a Boston Globe profile of Romney, has touched off howls of outrage from bloggers and animal rights activists even though it was presented in the story as an example of Romney's coolness under trying circumstances.
When Romney's eldest son, Tagg, and his four brothers complained about the brown runoff down the back windshield, their father quietly pulled the car over, borrowed a gas station hose and sprayed down both the dog and the kennel before returning to the road.
"Massachusetts animal cruelty laws specifically prohibit anyone from carrying an animal `in or upon a vehicle, or otherwise, in an unnecessarily cruel or inhuman manner or in a way and manner which might endanger the animal carried thereon,"' wrote Steve Benen in a post on the blog "Crooks and Liars."
Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told Time magazine's "Swampland" blog: "If you wouldn't strap your child to the roof of your car, you have no business doing that to the family dog!"
Romney dismissed any outcry about the 24-year-old incident, saying the dog enjoyed his rooftop perch.
"He scrambled up there every time we went on trips," Romney said at a campaign stop in Pittsburgh Thursday. "He got it all by himself and enjoyed it."