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October 24, 2007 > Ohlone Humane Society

Ohlone Humane Society

Howl-o-ween

By Nancy Lyon

Hopefully Halloween won't be a dark and stormy night for revelers, but All Hallows Eve can be pretty frightening and stressful if you're an animal. Put yourself in their place, your world is suddenly filled with strange costumed beings pounding on the door; it's enough to send even the most confident critter running for cover in terror, or ready to attack the intruders.

Even as animal lovers and responsible guardians, we sometimes forget just how hazardous Halloween is to our animal friends, but if you plan ahead, you can prevent it from being a scary time for them and still enjoy neighborhood festivities.
On this night, it's natural for kids to be exceptionally noisy and strange looking, that's what it's all about. Enjoy the kids but keep your critter in a quiet and safe place on Halloween. With goblins and ghosts continually ringing the doorbell the sound can be pretty upsetting to them. Even the most rock steady animal may become unexpectedly aggressive or fearful around strangers in costume, so think ahead and protect both critters and kids.

Fluffy looks so cute in...
It's tempting for some to include their "pets" in the merrymaking, and they just can't resist dressing up their four-legged friend in a costume for Halloween, and on other holidays. Even though it provides you and your friends a lot of amusement, don't dress up your dog or cat unless you know he or she loves it.

If you decide to do so, while a costumed animal buddy may be "cute" for photos, it's very necessary to use caution when they are wearing a one. Make sure the costume isn't annoying or unsafe, and doesn't restrict movement, vision, hearing or ability to breathe or bark. Tight elastics on the costumes can get lost in longer coated critters and overlooked, leading to swelling and pain in the area of the elastic.

An animal in costume should NEVER be left alone and unsupervised. If you leave them alone in costume, they may chew it up and ingest it. This could cause intestinal obstruction if more than small shreds of material are consumed. Don't leave it to the children to watch them, make sure an adult supervises animals in costume at all times. And just as you would with a child in costume, keep them safely away from lighted candles.

Sweet but dangerous
Even though we've taught them that sharing is a good thing, carefully instruct kids not to share their goodies with "pets" or leave them in a spot where their fuzzy buddies with a sweet tooth can fill up on their ill gotten gain. Chocolate can be very toxic to dogs, and other candies such as lollipops and those with plastic components pose a danger if ingested. Tasty lollipop sticks, candy wrappers, and tin foil can cause intestinal obstruction and potentially rupture the intestines, which is a life-threatening emergency.

Keep this in mind
If you decide to have an at-home Halloween celebration, it's going to be hard to monitor what's going on between your guests and your animals. Let's face it, it's so tempting to offer "just a little bit" of treats to a big-eyed, pleading dog that simply must not be overlooked. If children are present, it's going to be even more difficult to keep them from slipping a tidbit or two to Fido. In these circumstances, you might consider overnight boarding arrangements with your vet or a qualified kennels. Like everything else, veterinary costs are skyrocketing these days, and a little planning ahead could pay off in many ways - less trauma for your animal and your pocket book.

There are bad guys out there
Placing them in a safe place does not mean the backyard. Each year there are plenty of cases of vicious pranksters who have teased, injured, stolen, and in some cases, killed animals on Halloween night. While most of us usually discount it, black animals are still at risk from individuals who practice ritual animal sacrifice on Halloween. Sometimes troubled youths will think it's cool to copy ritual torture and killing just for kicks. Be very aware of this and protect your animals from theft for a week or so before and on Halloween night.

OHS recommends keeping your cats indoors only since it's always a dangerous practice to allow your cat to roam freely - and it is especially so during this period. The danger to black (and solid white) pets is not just a scary story. Many animal shelters will not adopt out animals of this coloration until after the holiday.

When all else fails
If your efforts to protect them fail, and your stressed-out critter takes the first opportunity to bolt out the door during treat collecting or from other related celebrations, they can suffer injury or death from traffic or worse. In their terror to escape they may never be seen again.

To help get them home safely, make sure your dog or cat is wearing an identification tag with current contact information and that it is micro-chipped if possible. This greatly increases the chances that they will be returned to you. Contact your local animal shelter as soon as possible and ask for advice in finding your lost family member. Don't wait hoping they will "show up". Time is not on their side, and delay could cost them their lives.

Have fun, think ahead, and may you and your critters have a happy and safe Howl-o-ween!

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