Wishing Everyone an Animal-Friendly Halloween!

Halloween may be different this year, but safety and compassion should be the hallmark of every holiday every year. Listen to medical experts about coronavirus safeguards and follow these additional tips for a happy Halloween for everyone, humans and non-humans.

If you’re eating or distributing candy, make it vegan candy. Candy made from milk, eggs, gelatin (made from animal skin, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and bones), confectioner’s glaze (made from the resinous excretions of certain insects), or carmine color (red pigment made from crushed cochineal insects) contribute to animal suffering. I like Twizzlers but click here for a list of some other lip-smacking cruelty-free candy.

Keep candy out of reach of animals, and make sure that kids know not to share their goodies with pets or other animals. All candy (and wrappers!) can cause animals to become sick, and chocolate, which contains an ingredient that is poisonous to dogs, can kill. A simple cat or dog treat will make your animal companion’s’ Halloween great without making them sick.

I’ve seldom seen an animal happy in a Halloween costume, but if (and only if) yours is, make sure those costumes are pet friendly. Costumes that restrict vision or movement are no good. Costumes that are kept in place with tight rubber bands can cut off circulation. Costumes made of flammable materials are likewise out of the question. Pets can be curious about flickering candles and lit jack-o-lanterns – don’t make Halloween a life-threatening proposition for them. Keep those things away from animals, costumed or not.

Keep other decorations away, too. The ink that is used in some brightly colored decorations, such as orange streamers and paper pumpkins, is toxic to animals, and swallowed balloons or party favors can block an animal’s digestive tract.

Keep your pets inside. For cats—especially black cats, who have been unfairly associated with “evil forces”—the days leading up to Halloween can be dark indeed as sick people go on the prowl for cats to torture and often kill. In fact, many animal shelters refuse to adopt out black cats during the entire month of October. It’s a sad commentary on humans that it has to be this way.

Dogs should be kept indoors too. Halloween can be a terrifying experience for dogs, who often run from the noise and the strangely dressed people and can become lost.

When Halloween is over and those pumpkins on your doorstep are looking tired and sad, don’t throw them in the garbage. If there is a wooded or wild area nearby where animals live, bring your pumpkins there. Not only will hungry animals eat them, but smaller animals like chipmunks and squirrels will hollow them out and move in. Old pumpkins and gourds make warm and comfortable homes for the cold months ahead. Note: If you have deer in your area, cut hollowed-out pumpkins up before leaving them in the woods so that feasting deer don’t get their heads caught in them.

Happy Halloween, and peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

 

Preparing Your Pets for Natural Disasters

It’s hurricane season again in the Atlantic and Gulf states, and wildfire season out west. In many places, people will be evacuated, often with little or no advance notice. Now is the time to know you and your animal companions are prepared for natural disasters.

In a major disaster, local emergency workers may be stretched to the limit, and it can take days for additional help to arrive from outside your area. The bottom line is that you are the best—maybe even the only—chance your animal has for rescue. It’s really important that you have a plan.

Your plan should cover the different kinds of disasters likely to occur where you live. Do you have hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods? What about wildfires? Earthquakes? You’ll need a plan to evacuate if a fire or flood is headed your way.

Evacuating Your Home

Take your animals. If it’s not safe for you to stay, it isn’t safe for your animals either.

Have an animal disaster kit ready. Your kit should include carriers, leashes, a litter box, and bowls, as well as a three— to five-day supply of pet food, water, and litter. Don’t forget your animal companions’ medical records and medications. Include current photos of each animal, in case they get separated from you during the evacuation. A plastic storage bin is a great way to keep your kit portable and dry. Make sure you can get to your disaster kit quickly.

Prepare your animals early. It can be very hard to load a frightened cat into a carrier or to quickly find a dog who doesn’t always come when called. You may want to confine your animals in the house (or in their carriers) before the actual evacuation order comes. It’s also a good idea to practice evacuating the house with all your animals, in preparation for the day when a firefighter knocks on your door and says you have to be out in five minutes. Of course, your animals should be microchipped and wearing ID tags with your name and cell phone number.

Know where to go. Do you have friends or family nearby who can host you and your animals? Do you know which hotels take animals?  Consider including a list of hotels in your disaster kit.

Have an arrangement with a friend. What if you’re not home when your neighborhood is evacuated? A mutual aid agreement with a neighbor or friend will ensure that your animals get out in time.

Have rescue alert stickers in place. A sticker in windows on all four sides of your residence will alert fire or rescue workers to the fact that your animals may be trapped inside.

Sheltering at Home

Make sure you have plenty of supplies. Have a minimum of 10 days of food and supplies at home. It’s much less stressful for animals to stay in a familiar environment, but if you run out of supplies, you may have to evacuate with your animals to a shelter.

Have a battery-operated radio. If you are sheltering at home to avoid exposure to a toxic spill or a flu epidemic, you’ll need to know when the danger is over. Cell phones lose power and cell phone towers can be put out of commission. A radio (with lots of extra batteries!) will enable you to find out when the coast is clear.

Consider taking a dog and cat first-aid class. In an emergency, a veterinarian may not be immediately available. You might save your dog’s or cat’s life in a disaster by knowing how to stop bleeding or treat for shock. Even without a disaster, your knowledge of how to treat heat stroke or choking may save an animal’s life. To find an animal first-aid class, contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross, or check with your nearest animal shelter.

If you don’t already have an animal disaster kit, take a few minutes today to put a basic one together. Here’s some more information on disaster planning for your animals.

Be prepared, stay safe, and please take a moment to watch this video from an old friend of mine! 

Peace to ALL the animal with whom we share this planet.

Would You Have Your Best Friend’s Fingers and Toes Amputated?

Cats’ claws are a vital part of their anatomy and their instinctive behavior. They use them to escape from other animals or people who are hurting or threatening them. Cats claw to have fun and exercise, to maintain the condition of their nails, and to mark their territory. They stretch by digging their claws in and pulling against their own claw-hold.
Declawing of cats, or onychectomy, is not at all like clipping your fingernails. It is the amputation of the last bone, including the nail bed and claw, on each front toe. It is the same as cutting off each of your fingers at the first knuckle. Declawing is serious surgery and puts a cat at risk of adverse reactions to anesthesia, gangrene, hemorrhaging, permanent nerve damage, persistent pain, difficulty walking, scar tissue formation, bone fragments, and skin disorders. After surgery, the nails may grow back inside the paw, causing pain but remaining invisible to observers. Declawing results in a gradual weakening of leg, shoulder, and back muscles, and because of impaired balance caused by the procedure, declawed cats must relearn to walk, much as a person would after losing his or her toes.
Without claws, even house-trained cats may urinate outside the litter box. Declawed cats may be morose, reclusive, and withdrawn or irritable, aggressive, and unpredictable. Many people think that declawed cats are safer around babies, but in fact, the lack of claws, a cat’s first line of defense, makes many cats feel so insecure that they tend to nip more often as a means of self-protection. Declawed cats often develop behavioral problems that eventually lead to their being dumped at animal shelters and killed.
Please don’t declaw your cats. If having an animal with claws in your home is a problem for you, please don’t choose a cat for your companion. You wouldn’t have your best friend’s fingers and toes amputated at the knuckles, would you?
Peace to all the animals with whom we share this planet!

Fireworks Are No Fun for Animals

I hate fireworks, I really do. Fireworks frighten and kill pets and wild animals. More dogs go missing on July 4 than on any other day of the year; many never make it home alive. Please don’t “celebrate” this holiday or any other by causing pain, fear, and death, and protect your companion animals from being frightened by the thoughtless “celebrations” of others.

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet.

 

 

 

Senior Animals Need Love, Too

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Sure you can, but really, why would you want to? Old dogs (and cats) are perfect just the way they are.

November is Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. It’s a sad fact that older animals have the hardest time finding homes and are often the first to be killed at city and county shelters. But there are so many reasons that older animals make ideal companions. Here are just a few:

Older pets are typically calmer than curious puppies and kittens and are quite content with a more relaxing day-to to-day routine. The mellow nature of older pets makes them a great fit for households with children too. Before ending up in shelters, senior pets often come from some sort of family life which makes adjusting to a new home environment much easier than it could be for puppies or kittens.

Senior dogs and cats are often already trained (and potty trained) and may even be pros at performing basic commands. The great news is that even if they’re not, they are much easier to train than younger animals. Their experience around humans, along with more established physical and mental abilities, allow them to better understand the requested commands and pick up new tasks much faster than puppies or kittens.

Senior animals don’t require the constant attention required young ones. Of course, they still love to play and go for walks, they just don’t require as much of your focus and energy. All they really want is a warm and comfortable place to sleep, fresh food and water, and a companion to love and one who will love them back. If you want an animal friend who can fit right in the moment he or she comes home, a senior dog or cat might be just what you’re looking for.

Last, but far from least, by adopting a senior pet or any animal – you are giving the gift of life. Animals, old and young, are dumped at city and county shelters every day, and, sadly, many will never leave alive. Doesn’t every animal deserve a chance at a loving and caring home?

Thinking about adding an animal companion to your household? Adopt and save a life – and why not adopt a grateful and loving older animal?

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

New California Law Takes Aim at Breeding Mills

Here’s a photo of me and Muttley, rescued from a municipal shelter in the nick of time, and a member of my family for ten years.

On January 1, 2019, California became the first state to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs, cats, and other mammals unless they were acquired from a shelter, rescue group, or public animal control agency. Under the new California law, pet store operators must be able to prove the origin for animals in their store or be fined $500 per animal.

Most animals sold in pet stores come from mass-breeding facilities that churn out hundreds of thousands of animals every year in deplorable conditions. At these “puppy mills,” “breeding stock” are artificially inseminated again and again to keep them permanently pregnant or nursing. Due to stress and physical exertion, their lives are often short. Their young are typically taken away at a very early age, packed into crates, and trucked or flown hundreds of miles – often without adequate food, water, or ventilation – to brokers, who then sell them to stores. Some of the animals don’t survive the grueling journey.

This is a serious and long overdue blow to those evil breeding mills. Animal advocacy groups have fought and uncovered horrific conditions at breeding mills for years, including those at Holmes Farm, a huge Pennsylvania animal mill that supplied PetSmart, Petco, and others. Undercover video taken there documented that animals were kept in stacked plastic bins, denied veterinary care, and routinely frozen alive and gassed by the dozens. Holmes Farm was raided by agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is now under federal investigation.

Another good reason to put these breeders out of business? Purebred dogs and cats suffer from significantly higher rates of physical abnormalities and congenital defects. Over-breeding has saturated gene pools with those for deafness, heart ailments, and other physical disorders. The healthiest and most robust dogs and cats are mixed-breeds, or mutts, and they’re oh so cute besides. Every animal is beautiful in his or her own right, not just those with AKC-certified bloodlines!

California is the first to have such a law enacted statewide, but there are similar laws restricting pet store sales in towns and cities across the country. If where you live isn’t on the list, I urge you to contact your state and local legislators to push for similar legislation.

As good news as the California law is for putting an end to breeding mills, it’s still not cause for celebration. Don’t forget that every time someone buys an animal from a pet store, they are condemning another in a shelter, waiting to be loved, to death. Pet store animals will be there until someone buys them, but shelter animals are given a only a brief window of opportunity to be adopted; those that aren’t are put to death. As Public Relations Director for New York’s Center for Animal Care and Control I witnessed beautiful, healthy dogs and cats held down, injected with an asphyxiating drug, and tossed into a refrigerated room to be taken away by garbage trucks. It’s heartbreaking and sickening. Make shelter animals your first choice in adoption, and, remember, always have your animal companions spayed or neutered.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

 

November Is Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Sure you can, but really, why would you want to? Old dogs (and cats) are perfect just the way they are.

November is Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. It’s a sad fact that older animals have the hardest time finding homes and are often the first to be killed at city and county shelters. But there are so many reasons that older animals make ideal companions. Here are just a few:

Older pets are typically calmer than curious puppies and kittens and are quite content with a more relaxing day-to to-day routine. The mellow nature of older pets makes them a great fit for households with children too. Before ending up in shelters, senior pets often come from some sort of family life which makes adjusting to a new home environment much easier than it could be for puppies or kittens.

Senior dogs and cats are often already trained (and potty trained) and may even be pros at performing basic commands. The great news is that even if they’re not, they are much easier to train than younger animals. Their experience around humans, along with more established physical and mental abilities, allow them to better understand the requested commands and pick up new tasks much faster than puppies or kittens.

Senior animals don’t require the constant attention required young ones. Of course, they still love to play and go for walks, they just don’t require as much of your focus and energy. All they really want is a warm and comfortable place to sleep, fresh food and water, and a companion to love and one who will love them back. If you want an animal friend who can fit right in the moment he or she comes home, a senior dog or cat might be just what you’re looking for.

Last, but far from least, by adopting a senior pet or any animal – you are giving the gift of life. Animals, old and young, are dumped at city and county shelters every day, and, sadly, many will never leave alive. Doesn’t every animal deserve a chance at a loving and caring home?

Thinking about adding an animal companion to your household? Adopt and save a life – and why not adopt a grateful and loving older animal?

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

Tips for an Animal-Friendly Halloween

Just before Halloween in 1969, “Peanuts” director Bill Melendez accompanied me and a photographer to a pumpkin stand on Pico Boulevard. “Let’s see a beautiful smile, my Lucy,” Melendez said, “for the Great Pumpkin.” The photo was used to promote the upcoming release of the movie “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.”

TIPS FOR AN ANIMAL-FRIENDLY HALLOWEEN

Halloween can be a treat but keeping animals safe doesn’t have to be tricky. Here are some tips for making your Halloween fun and animal-friendly.

Keep candy out of reach of animals

The candy bowl is for trick-or-treaters, not animals. Lots of common Halloween treats are toxic to pets. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats, and sugar-free candies containing the sugar substitute xylitol can cause serious problems in pets. If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian immediately.

Better yet, have a vegan Halloween

Vegan Halloween treats aren’t hard to come by. There are plenty of plant-based, cruelty-free options available right in the middle of the candy aisle of your local supermarket. The following candy brands are all vegan and widely available in grocery or convenience stores, making them ideal for hungry trick-or-treaters. While these brands are vegan, be sure to double check the ingredients before purchasing. Do the same with any special Halloween versions of these products, as this sometimes means a change in the standard recipe.

Vegan candies: Twizzlers, Jolly Ranchers, Cracker Jack, Gummi Bears, Swedish Fish, Skittles, Mamba Fruit Chews, Sour Patch Kids, Dots, Smarties, Sweet Tarts.

When shopping for vegan Halloween candy, avoid the following ingredients associated with animal cruelty:

Dairy: Found mostly in chocolate and caramel products, this can also be described as milkfat, whey, or caesin.

Gelatin: A common ingredient in gummy candies, gelatin is made from animal tendons, ligaments, and bones.

Shellac: Also known as “confectioner’s glaze,” this glossy product is created using the excretions of certain insects.

Carmine: Usually found in bright red products, carmine is a pigment made by crushing the shell of a female cochineal insect.

Eggs: Obviously not plant-based!

Of course, an even healthier alternative would be sweet and delicious dried fruits, like raisins, berries, and plantain chips, also readily available in every supermarket.

Watch the decorations and keep wires out of reach

While a carved jack-o-lantern may be festive, pets can accidentally knock over a lit pumpkin and start a fire. Curious puppies and kittens are especially at risk of getting burned or singed by candle flame. Decorative Halloween plants like gourds and multi-colored corn are considered relatively nontoxic but can produce stomach discomfort in your animal companions who nibble on them.

Skip the costumes for your animal companions

For many dogs and cats, wearing a costume can cause undue stress and discomfort. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume; consider limiting his or her “costume” to a safely-tied, colorful bandana. If you insist on dressing an animal for Halloween, make sure the costume does not restrict his or her movement, sight or ability to breathe. Check the costume carefully for small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that could present a choking hazard. Know, too, that ill-fitting outfits can get caught on things, leading to injury.

Keep pets calm and easily identifiable

Halloween brings a flurry of activity with visitors arriving at the door, and too many strangers can often be scary and stressful for your pets. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. While opening the door for guests, be sure that your dog or cat doesn’t dart outside. And always make sure he or she is wearing proper identification—if for any reason he or she does escape, a collar with ID tags and a microchip can be a lifesaver for a lost animal friend. Make sure the collar is fitted properly, too. Too tight, and breathing is restricted; too loose, and curious animals who explore tight places head-first can get caught and strangle. If you can slip two fingers easily between the collar and your pet’s neck, that’s just right.

Recycle your pumpkins for homeless animals

Stop! Don’t throw away that carved pumpkin when Halloween is over! Hollowed-out pumpkins make safe, warm, and edible housing for small animals. I leave mine in the woods. Check back days later, and you’ll often find a chipmunk or other small animal has moved in. Squirrels, rabbits, and other animals may make a holiday feast of your discarded pumpkin, too.

Peace to all the animals with whom we share the planet!

 

Thinking of Giving a Companion Animal to Someone You Love This Christmas? Do It Right!

Once you’ve decided that you and your family have the time, the patience, the financial means, and the compassion to bring a companion animal into your home, go to your local city or county animal shelter to adopt. You will be amazed at how many wonderful cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens are desperately waiting for someone to come in and save them from imminent death. Did you know that over five million healthy, adoptable companion animals are killed every year in shelters and pounds for no other reason but the lack of people to adopt them? Most animal shelters not only have cuddly cats and doggies waiting for loving homes, but also rabbits, chickens, pigs, etc., all of whom are homeless and longing to be a companion to someone special.

Many local rescue organizations hold adoption days at pet supply outlets such as Petco and PetSmart, etc. If you’re looking online, go to Petfinder.com, where you can search more than 4,000 shelters across the country by breed, size, location and other categories for wonderful animals to adopt.

Irresponsible people who don’t spay or neuter their pets, dump boxes of newborns at city and county shelters. It’s a terrible way to start out life, unwanted and abandoned. Personally, though, I have always adopted older doggies. They’re every bit as loveable as a puppy or kitten, but typically more mellow, and they don’t need to be potty-trained! Remember, too, that older animals are the first to be killed at shelters.

There are other great reasons for adopting an animal from a shelter or pound. The cost is low, and there are often discounts on spaying and neutering; most shelters spay or neuter your new best friend for you.

Never, ever buy from a breeder or pet shop. Adopt your next best friend and know that you are saving not one, but two lives – the precious animal you are adopting, and, by opening up shelter space, another animal who now has a chance to be rescued.

When you’ve done it right, your child or loved one will receive the gift of a longtime friend and companion. Those who share their home with an animal find the experience one of the most magnificent of their lives.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!