Putting Animals First this Halloween: Interview with the ISPCA

Lara Lewis

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Dog dressed as pumpkin at Halloween
Dog dressed as pumpkin – photo credit Eric.Ray (flickr)

Halloween is approaching. It’s an exciting time for children hoping to dress up and fill bags with goodies whilst out trick-or-treating. Pumpkins are alight, and both crazy and scary costumes are at the ready. The children are excitedly awaiting to indulge in this fanatical, yet spooky time of year. However, before the festivities begin we must remember to put our animals first this Halloween.

Family dressed in Halloween outfits
Family dressed in Halloween Outfits – Photo Credit Lara Lewis

Though children and adults alike can find this time of year very exciting, Halloween can be a terribly distressing time for some animals who end up being scared, abused and sometimes tortured, especially strays. Every year cats, dogs and other animals are defences victims of fireworks, bonfires and other abusive behaviours, resulting from horrendous acts of human cruelty.

It is important to remember that both bonfires and fireworks are illegal in this country. It is also absolutely necessary that anyone who witnesses the ill treatment of any animal reports it immediately.

I spoke with Carmel Murray, PR Manager with the Irish Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA). She says that: “If anyone witnesses any animal being subjected to cruel treatment, we ask them to notify your local Garda/Police station or call the ISPCA National Animal Cruelty Helpline in confidence on 1890 515 515. Unfortunately stray animals can sometimes bear the brunt of Halloween pranks.”

This Halloween the ISPCA are also reminding owners to consider their pets’ safety and wellbeing both inside and outside the home. With trick-or-treaters, fireworks, bonfires, and all the sweet treats around, your pet may find itself in a sticky situation if you are not careful. Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and other sweets can be harmful as well, so please keep all treats out of reach for their safety. The same goes for candles and Halloween decorations that could be chewed or swallowed. So while you are enjoying the festivities, bear in mind to keep everything away from your pets.

Halloween Trick or treat Cat Bag
Trick or Treat Cat Bag – Photo Credit GlitterandFrills (Flickr)

According to Carmel: “During the Halloween festivities there are often celebrations that can be stressful to your pets, including fireworks or bonfires, and the ISPCA would recommend walking your dog earlier than usual to avoid evening festivities if possible. This will not only avoid encountering stressful situations on your walk, but will also mean that your dog will be ready for a rest in the evening and may not be as reactive to the doorbell and commotion later.”

The unusual noise and activities at Halloween can drive pets to extreme behaviour, and the ISPCA strongly recommend that you have all your pets microchipped as a permanent form of identification. This is a legal requirement for all dogs and equines, and while it is not required for cats, it still gives you the best chance of being reunited with your beloved pet in the event that they escape.

Hedgehog in Grass
Hedgehog in Grass – Photo Credit Greg (Flickr)

Carmel further advises that: “Halloween is a dangerous time for our wonderful wildlife as well, so do your part to keep hedgehogs and other animals safe. Hedgehogs are beginning to hibernate at this time of year, and frequently do so in wood piles or heavy brush. If you are lighting a bonfire, please check all wood, scrub and leaves for hibernating hedgehogs.”

Below the ISPCA have offered some additional tips to keep pets safe and calm at Halloween. Please remember to keep pets confined in a safe area, away from the front door, sweets and treats, candles, and other hazards.

Dogs and Cats

  • Pets should have somewhere to hide where they feel secure if frightened by the noise of bangers or fireworks, so a quiet room in the house will help with closed curtains and music playing to mask the noise of fireworks.
  • If your pet is showing signs of fear do not react or make a fuss as this will make matters worse. As difficult as it may be, try to ignore fearful behaviour.
  • Steps can be taken to minimise the stress caused to pets by training them in the run up to the Halloween festivities. This can involve training like playing sounds of fireworks at lower volumes and rewarding your pet for calm behaviour, slowly increasing the volume leading up to Halloween. Consult your vet or animal behaviourist for advice.
  • Anxiety in your animals can be reduced by altering feeding regimes. Feeding later in the evening will encourage the animal to eat during anxiety triggering periods.
  • Licking objects such as Kongs filled with peanut butter will help reduce stress.
  • Playing with your pets can be effective in reducing stress if they are up for a game. If not, do not try to force them.

 Small Animals

  • Small animals and birds normally housed outside should ideally be moved into a garage or shed. If this is not possible cover hutches or cages with blankets or carpet to act as sound-proofing.
  • Provide increased amounts of bedding for extra security.

Equines

  • Horses, ponies and donkeys that live in areas where there is a considerable amount of Halloween related noise should be securely stabled to prevent them from escaping or doing damage to themselves.

For more information, please contact PR Manager Carmel Murray at the ISPCA on 087 0525119 or email carmel.murray@ispca.ie.  Thank you.

To conclude, Halloween can also be an amazing, happy time of year, so let’s all be aware, play safe, stay safe, look after our animals and have a Happy Halloween!

Halloween Firework Display

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Lara Lewis