How to Keep Pets Safe on Halloween + Top Ten Pet Costumes

One of my favorite Halloween memories is when my friend Joy and I entered our dogs in a fundraising costume contest at our local animal shelter. Lucy, a Rottweiler mix, and Ricky, an English springer spaniel, were dressed as a bride and groom while surrounded by dogs dressed in a wide variety of costumes including a hot dog, a lion, a tiger, Superman, a witch and the devil. While not all dogs enjoy dressing up, these contestants really seemed to enjoy the festivities.

According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, Halloween spending this year will reach a record 9.1 billion. When asked about Halloween shopping plans, 16 percent of the 7,013 surveyed said they would be buying a costume for their pets. The respondents were also asked what costumes their pets would be wearing this season. Here are the top ten choices:

  1. Pumpkin
  2. Hotdog
  3. Dog, (cats dressed as dogs), Lion and Pirate
  4. Bumblebee
  5. Devil
  6. Batman Character
  7. Ghost
  8. Cat (dogs dressed as cats)
  9. Witch
  10. Star Wars character

dogdressedaslion

Image credit: Thinkstock

Before you rush out to buy a pet costume, please consider the temperament of your animal companion. While it’s fun for us to play dress up with our dogs and cats, they might not be in the party mood. Don’t wait until Halloween to put the costume on your pet. Try it on a few days beforehand and if your dog or cat seems distressed, just settle for a seasonal bandana or consider just using part of the costume like a hood or a wig.

If you do have a pet who is happy to wear a full costume, make sure that it fits comfortably. The costume shouldn’t limit the animal’s movement, sight or ability to breathe, bark or meow say experts at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Also check the costume carefully for small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that could present a choking hazard. Ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects and cause injury to your pet.

Families who enjoy making their pets’ costumes can find a variety of designs at Martha Stewart Living.

catdressedaslittleredriding

Image credit: Thinkstock

Keeping Pets Safe on Halloween

  • Don’t feed your pets Halloween candy, especially if it contains chocolate or xylitol (a common sugar substitute found in sugar-free candies and gum).
  • Make sure your pet is properly identified (microchip, collar and ID tag) in case he or she escapes through the open door while you’re distracted with trick-or-treaters.
  • Keep lit candles and jack-o-lanterns out of reach of pets.
  • Never leave a pet unsupervised while he or she is wearing a costume.
  • Keep glow sticks and glow jewelry away from your pets. Although the liquid in these products isn’t likely toxic, it tastes really bad and makes pets salivate excessively and act strangely.
  • Keep decorations—like streamers and fake spider webs—and wires and chords from lighted decorations out of reach of pets.
  • If your pet is wary of strangers or has a tendency to bite, put him or her in another room during trick-or-treating hours or provide him/her with a safe hiding place.
  • Keep your dogs and cats safely indoors on Halloween. Cats—black ones in particular—often fall victim to pranksters.
  • Don’t let the family dog accompany the kids on their trick-or-treat outing as dogs can get scared and break free.

Sources: The Humane Society of the United States and the American Veterinary Medical Association

Sanctuary Gives New Beginning to Chicken Rescued from Religious Ritual

This article first published on Care2.com

Recently as I pulled away from a toll booth on the New York State Thruway I noticed what looked like white feathers blowing across my windshield. Sure enough, when I glanced to my right there was a truck bed stacked high with flat crates each crammed full of live chickens. It was about 90 degrees outside and I couldn’t imagine the pain, fear and confusion of these poor innocent birds as they were driven to slaughter.

thought about the suffering of chickens again when just a few days later I received an “Emergency Care for the Beloved Birds” email alert from Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. This awesome sanctuary located in High Falls, NY is in desperate need of donations to help cover the cost of emergency care for 14 chickens who survived the annual Kaporos ritual that ended last week in Brooklyn, NY.

Kaporos is a ritual celebrated by some ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities on public streets of Brooklyn prior to Yom Kippur. Practitioners symbolically transfer their sins to a young rooster or hen by swinging the bird around his or her head while reciting a passage and then killing the chicken. Many communities choose to use money instead of live birds but a number persist in this cruel practice.

The Use of Chickens in Kaporos Ritual Condemned by Rabbis

“Using chickens not only violates 15 laws and regulations including public health codes, sanitation laws, child labor laws, slaughterhouse regulations and animal cruelty laws, but also several mandates and imperatives from the Torah and Talmud,” said Rina Deych, a founding member of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos.

According to the alliance, this use of chickens has been condemned as unethical and contrary to the spirit of Jewish tradition by dozens of Orthodox rabbis all over the world. It has been deemed a health hazard by a well-respected toxicologist for putting New York residents and visitors at risk of contracting E. coli, Salmonella and other transmittable diseases.

Despite the protests, the annual ritual continues in New York City. This year an estimated 60,000 baby chickens suffered the trauma of transportation from factory farms to Brooklyn where they spent five days crammed inside crates stacked on the side of the streets. According to the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, an estimated several thousand died of starvation, dehydration, exposure and injury, and their bodies were discarded like trash into garbage bags and dumpsters.

When the ritual finally began, the young chickens who survived and were now weak from lack of food and water were held by their fragile wings—painfully pinned together behind their backs—and swung over the heads of the practitioners. In some cases, the chicken’s bones snapped during this horrific practice.

“Animal activists who were on the streets protesting said it was heartbreaking to hear the chickens peeping in terror and pain,” said Rachel McCrystal, executive director of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. “These were all babies stacked in those crates on the streets of New York. They were confused and calling for their moms.”

Chickens Experience Compassion for First Time in Their Lives

Activists managed to rescue about 200 chickens. These precious birds are now experiencing compassion and kindness for the first time in their lives at local sanctuaries. Rehabilitation at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary includes around-the-clock care. These birds were being raised for the meat industry so their bodies were genetically manipulated for faster growth. According to the sanctuary, at between 5 and 7 weeks of age factory farm chickens spend 76 to 86 percent of their time lying down due to lameness and deformity.

“This is the issue we are dealing with now with the rescued chickens,” McCrystal said. “Their legs can’t hold the weight of their bodies.”

caregiverholdingchickenImage courtesy of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

Caregivers are working to strengthen the chickens’ legs with physical therapy. Specially designed rubber bands are being used to help straighten their legs. And there are other problems, too. Chickens are tossed or stuffed into crates at the factory farm before being loaded onto trucks. Many birds suffer bruising, broken bones, dislocation and hemorrhage during catching and crating. Once on the trucks, chickens are subjected to further overcrowding, trampling and suffocation; food and water deprivation for up to 28 hours; noise, vibration and motion stress; and often grueling temperature extremes.

Among the survivors now living at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary are Rebecca and Bianca. Rebecca is sick from the conditions she was raised in on the factory farm but will recover. One of Bianca’s wings was severely broken during transportation and had to be amputated. She is doing well following her surgery.

“Bianca is a sweet, spunky and loving chicken who is developing a bond with her caregivers,” McCrystal said.

chickenwithcollaraftersurgeBianca had to have a wing amputated after being rescued from the Kaporos ritual in Brooklyn, NY. She is recovering in her stylish Elizabethan collar at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.

Image courtesy of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

Bianca had to have a wing amputated after being rescued from the Kaporos ritual in Brooklyn, NY. She is recovering in her stylish Elizabethan collar at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.

It’s hard to imagine that after the cruel treatment these birds received that they would ever trust humans again. Just how quickly rescued animals do trust depends on the individual animal, McCrystal said. The rescued chickens are already starting to bond with sanctuary caregivers.

“Chickens are like dogs and cats—they enjoy cuddling and sitting on laps and make great animal companions,” McCrystal said. “One of the caregivers took our rooster, Clyde, home for a few nights and he sat on the couch beside her watching ‘Game of Thrones’”

To learn more about The Woodstock Farm Sanctuary or to help with the emergency care of the  Beloved Birds rescued from the Kaporos ritual in Brooklyn, NY visit their website.

Is Your Dog Overweight? Here’s How to Walk Your Dog for Weight Loss

This article first published on Care2.com

I’m embarrassed to say that our collie mix, Jason, is overweight. The pounds crept on as I accepted more freelance and volunteer work leaving less time for daily dog walks.

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day is Oct 11 and we are determined to get Jason back into shape. When it comes to dealing with pet weight issues our family has plenty of company. In fact, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 53.9 percent of dogs are overweight or obese and a majority of their owners are blind to the issue.

“Obesity continues to be the greatest health threat to dogs and cats,” said APOP Founder and Veterinarian Ernie Ward. “Obesity is a disease that kills millions of pets prematurely, creates immeasurable pain and suffering and costs pet owners tens of millions of dollars in avoidable medical costs.”

Among all diseases that affect pets, obesity has the greatest negative impact according to APOP. Osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint injury, various forms of cancer and decreased life expectancy are all linked to obesity in pets. There are many things that families can do to help a dog get back into shape. For some pets, feeding a special diet or substituting vegetables for commercial treats can help. Any new play or exercise routine should be introduced gradually with owners watching for signs of fatigue or injury. The APOP website offers a chart on the daily caloric needs of dogs that can be paired with an exercise program to help your dog safely lose weight.

JasongettingcarrotIn addition to walking for weight loss Jason is getting carrots instead of commercial dog treats.

How to Walk Your Dog For Weight Loss

It’s important to have a conversation with your veterinarian before beginning any weight loss program with your dog writes Ward in his article “Walking the Dog: Tips for Getting the Most Out of Exercising Your Pooch” published on the APOP website.

In his article Ward writes:

“When you combine exercise with proper diet and lifestyle, you extend the years you’ll have your four-legged friend around to hug and love and snuggle with at night. Walk with your dog every day and you’ll enhance an already deep spiritual bond with the knowledge that you’re doing both of you a world of good.”

Following are Ward’s tips for helping your dog lose weight by walking:

Get the right equipment

A head halter or walking harness is the safest choice for any walking routine. Look for wide, soft and padded straps and breathable materials. Steer clear of collars as they can compress the trachea when pulled causing difficulty breathing or even injury. Choke-collars are especially dangerous.

Four-foot leashes are ideal as they allow you to keep your dog close so you can maintain a steady pace. Longer leashes can be saved for casual strolls around the neighborhood. Protective booties may be required for winter romps. Don’t forget to bring along water if it’s warm (above 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit for most dogs) or if you’ll be walking for longer than thirty minutes.

womanwalkingdog 

Set time goals

For most overweight or obese dogs that have normal heart and lung function and normal blood pressure and no other pre-existing medical conditions, start with thirty-minute walks a minimum of five times per week. If possible, walk 30 minutes a day seven days a week.

Following is a sample exercise schedule:

  • Week 1: 30 minutes total – 10 minutes brisk walk followed by 20 minutes at a casual pace
  • Week 2: 30 minutes total – 15 minutes brisk walk followed by 15 minutes at a casual pace
  • Week 3: 30 minutes total – 20 minutes brisk walk followed by 10 minutes at a casual pace
  • Week 4: 35-40 minutes total – 30 minutes brisk walk followed by 5-10 minutes at a casual pace
  • Week 5 plus: 35-60 minutes total. The goal should be to do two 20-30 minute walks per day with 15 to 25 minutes at a brisk pace followed by a 5-minute casual walk.

Monthly weight checks

Until your dog reaches his/her ideal weight have your vet do monthly weigh-ins. In addition, have a technician inspect the pads for any injuries or problems and to ensure that the nails are short and healthy. Once your dog reaches the desired weight, he/she should be re-weighed every three months to ensure a healthy weight is being maintained

6 Common Myths About Shelter Animals (and the Truth About Them)

Adopting a dog doesn’t mean you’re inheriting someone else’s problem. Learn the truth and some common myths about shelter animals.

It’s a sad fact that each year approximately 670,000 dogs are euthanized in animal shelters across the United States. It happens because too many dogs enter the shelter and too few people consider adoption when it comes to getting a new pet. Many buy into one of the most common myths that when you adopt a dog from a shelter you are inheriting someone else’s problem.

The truth is that shelters and rescues are brimming with happy, healthy pets just waiting for someone to take them home. Most shelter pets are surrendered because of a human problem like a move or a divorce, not because the animals did anything wrong. Many are already housetrained and used to living with families.

“When you adopt a shelter dog you are most likely bringing home a dog who has good manners, is leash trained and knows some commands,” said Ellen Ribitzki, kennel manager for the Bloomingdale Regional Animal Shelter Society (B.A.S.S.) in New Jersey.  “In addition, shelter dogs are temperament tested so adopters will have an idea of a pet’s personality―whether he/she gets along with other dogs or with cats and young children.”

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How You Can Help Reform the Horse-Drawn Carriage Industry in New York

 

The first time I visited New York City I was horrified to see horses pulling carriages full of tourists on the busy city streets. I worked with horses for more than twenty years, and I wondered how anyone who cares about the well being of these sensitive animals could force them to work in this environment.

Every day carriage horses are forced to dodge traffic and potholes while being subjected to screeching brakes, car horns, sirens, jackhammers and the multitude of other sounds that can be heard in one of the most congested cities in the world. All so that tourists can enjoy the wonderful sites of New York City.

Those who support the horse-drawn carriage industry in cities say that it’s a long-held tradition that should be preserved. That argument no longer stood up in Guadalajara, Mexico, when earlier this year the municipal government followed up on a commitment to put a stop to animal abuse.

The traditional horse-drawn carriages are being replaced with electric-powered replicas. According to a report that published in the Mexico News Daily, the first 10 will arrive in Mexico’s second largest city this year. A second batch of 22 carriages is expected to arrive in the first half of 2018, and the third and last batch of 23 in one year’s time.

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From Shelter to Service: Search Dogs Help Save Lives

 

This post first appeared on Care2.com

While hundreds of pets were being removed from flood zones in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, search dogs were entering those very same areas to find people who might have opted to stay behind and were now trapped by rising flood waters. The search dogs also quickly combed debris piles that were washed downstream to be sure no one was buried beneath them.

September is National Service Dog Month and a great time to honor the wonderful dogs trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF). The nonprofit organization located in Santa Paula, CA recruits and trains shelter dogs and partners them with firefighters and other first responders to find people trapped or buried alive in the wreckage of disasters. Most recently twelve SDF-trained search teams were deployed to help in the wake of the earthquake in Mexico City and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

What types of dogs excel in the SDF Program?

“Our trainers look for extremely driven, toy-obsessed dogs that don’t just want the toy, they need to possess the toy,” said Denise Sanders, SDF Communications and Development Officer. “This drive is what carries them through the process of learning to bark when they smell the scent of a live human—that toy is their reward and they will do anything to get it!”

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Why You Shouldn’t Feel Sorry for Deaf Dogs

This post first appeared on Care2.com

When members of the Deaf Dogs Network were asked what they would like the general public to know about their dogs, the most common response was: “Please don’t feel sorry for my deaf dog.” Deaf dogs don’t know they are deaf or different and with the proper training and care, they are as happy and content as hearing dogs. Just take a look at the dogs in the main image playing together in the Deaf Dogs Rock dog park in Salem, VA if you need proof that these terrific dogs can live happy and healthy lives.

Feeling sorry for deaf dogs doesn’t help them, says Christina Lee, founder of Deaf Dogs Rock, a nonprofit that promotes the care and well being of deaf dogs and assists in finding homes for deaf dogs surrendered to shelters and rescues. In fact, owners who feel sorry for their deaf dogs and deprive them of their independence can unintentionally cause the dogs to develop severe separation anxiety.

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Does Adding a Younger Dog to the Family Revitalize a Senior Dog?

This post first appeared on Care2.com

Our Rottweiler mix, Lucy, was 15 when she passed away. In the weeks that followed we watched Jason, our 8-year-old border collie mix, get more and more depressed. He spent a lot of time laying on Lucy’s bed with his face turned towards the wall. We felt sure that what he needed was a new companion. The problem was making a good match. Jason had only been 6-months-old when we adopted him as a companion for Lucy, and his puppy antics gave her renewed energy.

With that in mind, we adopted American foxhound Bella, a skinny 1-year-old, who had been rescued from a kill shelter in Virginia. She was used to living with a pack of hounds and always wanted to lay beside or on top of Jason. He wasn’t impressed but soon got used to her neediness. The problems started when Bella gained strength and we got to see her crazy playing style. She was too rough for our senior and didn’t respond well to his signals to back off. We had to constantly supervise playtime to make sure things didn’t get out of control.

jasonandbella

We’ve all heard that an older dog becomes revitalized if you bring a younger dog into the family. Is that true? It very much depends on the dog and the family say experts at the Senior Dogs Project, a nonprofit that promotes the adoption of older dogs and provides information on the special care of seniors. In some cases, a puppy will “energize” an older dog, who will become more playful and begin to behave like a puppy herself again. However, some older dog simply won’t tolerate the changes made by another dog in her home.

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Horse Racing is Not a Sport: It’s the Exploitation of Animals

This post first appeared on Care2.com

In “A Day at the Saratoga Race Course: 10 Ways to feel like an Insider” that published on NYup.com, readers are advised to take in at least one race at the finish line because “…not only can you try to spy celebrities in the clubhouse off to the right, it’s a great place to experience the race – the guy with the bugle, the roaring crowd, the straining jockeys, the thundering hooves of the horses.”

I agree that racegoers should pay close attention to the homestretch. Not to experience the excitement of the chase but to see how jockeys thank horses for running their hearts out by whipping them 15 to 20 times before they reach the finish line. As for those who enjoyed the races at Saratoga Springs this summer, I would like them to consider that 19 horses died. They included Angels Seven who was pulled up in the race due to an injury to the left front leg and was euthanized on the track; Brooklyn Major who collapsed and died after the finish of a race; and Fall Colors who fell at the second fence and died on the track. Horse racing is not a sport it’s the exploitation of animals for entertainment and profit.

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Tips for House Hunting as a Pet Owner

This post first appeared on Care2.com

I will never forget how nervous I was the day Solas, my late German shepherd mix, and I headed out to meet the landlord of a studio apartment that I was hoping to rent. The apartment was at the back of the landlord’s home and he and his wife were hesitant to rent to a tenant with a dog. I convinced them to meet my dog before turning us down.

Solas had been bathed and was wearing a cute bandana when we walked up to the landlord’s door. I also brought along her Canine Good Citizen certificate and references from my veterinarian. She made a great impression and we got the apartment. In fact, Solas and the landlord’s granddaughter became great buddies.

Not all tenants with pets fare so well. In an American Humane survey of 93 shelters, “landlord won’t allow pets” was the fourth most common reason pets were surrendered to shelters. And according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), finding and keeping rental housing lead to the surrender of half a million pets to shelters each year. While the rental housing industry claims to be pet-friendly, HSUS representatives say that it is discriminating about the types of pets allowed. Often there are weight limits or breed restrictions when it comes to renting with dogs.

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