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October 22, 2008 > Ohlone Humane Society: The enemy is at my door?

Ohlone Humane Society: The enemy is at my door?

By Nancy Lyon

Picture're sleeping peacefully in your home when there's a loud and frightening banging on your door. The door is opened and standing before you are the most incredibly strange small creatures pushing forward with their hands outstretched. this an alien abduction or what? This is your worst nightmare, your home a place of peace and safety, has been invaded and you are uncertain what to do... you're torn between standing and fighting or running for your life.

Sounds like a bad horror movie for TV but it's actually your family critter's perception of normal Halloween festivities. Holiday fun-making can have disastrous results if you don't take a few precautions to protect them from the antics of children who are just having a good time.

Your dog, cat or other critter may normally be good with children and strangers but it does not mean that on this night of weird costumes and unusual noise, that your fur-friend is going to take everything in stride. The last thing you want to do is to be complacent and have them escape into the night and possibly end up dead or injured in the street...or out of fear bite some child.

In fact, Halloween is second only to July 4th in being hazardous to our animal friends so please give the following some thought. The life you save may be your beloved companion animal.

Treats or Tricks?

Dogs are smart; they know most children would love to share a few of their sweets with an irresistible begging dog friend. But a special goody to kids can prove poisonous and deadly to our animal friends. Chocolate is extremely toxic to dogs and enough snatched from an easily accessed place can prove fatal. A number of people offer little boxes of raisins as treats but an unknown toxin in them can cause kidney damage to cats and dogs. Candy wrappers and foil, if swallowed, can cause serious digestive upset.

The best course of action is to make sure all treats are inaccessible, both those out-going and incoming. Veterinary care can be very expensive - it's a lot easier to prevent your sweets gobbling critter from ingesting the indigestible, than to have you both pay a big price for a moment's carelessness.


I'm not a big fan of dressing up animals in costumes and don't recommend it unless you know they really love it. Otherwise, it can put too much stress on the animal. If you do dress up your "pet," make sure the costume isn't annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict their movement, hearing, or ability to breathe, or make normal sounds. Also, there should not be small, dangling, or easily chewed-off pieces on the costume that they could choke on. Be careful not to obstruct their vision. Even the sweetest animal can get snappy when he or she can't see. Think prevention just as you would for a child in costume.

Be careful of a candle lit Jack O'Lantern, especially if they are wearing a costume. Curious or excited animals can overturn them and be burnt or may knock it over and cause a fire. The ever curious cat may find out the hard way that fire burns and lose one of his nine lives.

The enemy at the door

Even the friendliest animal can become very upset by strangers banging on the door, wearing strange costumes and behaving in a loud manner. Such unfamiliar happenings may trigger a response that is totally different from their normal behavior and provoke fear-based actions that are totally out of character. By keeping this in mind, it is possible by taking a few precautions to avoid incidents that may put both trick-or-treaters and our animals in harms way.

The best solution is to confine them in a quiet room away from unsettling noise and confusion. If you are planning a holiday party in your home, monitoring the interaction of guests and "pets" is going to be difficult. Consider making overnight boarding arrangements with a qualified boarding kennel or with your veterinarian. A dog or cat escaping through the front door during treat collecting or from other related celebrations can dart into life threatening traffic. Some escape in terror and are never seen again.

The real Bad Guys out there

Don't leave your "pet" out in the yard on Halloween. There are plenty of stories of cruel revellers who have teased, injured, stolen, and even killed animals on this night. Sadly, there are some sick individuals out there who feel unprotected animals are fair game.

It's not a holiday legend that on All Hallows Eve black animals are especially at risk from individuals who practice or mimic ritual animal sacrifice. Be very aware of this and protect your animals from theft for a week before Halloween as well as on Halloween night. It's always a dangerous practice to allow your cat or dog to roam freely and it is especially so during this period. The danger to black (and solid white) animals is not just a scary story, this is more of a problem than you might imagine. And while many animal shelters have changed their past policy of not adopting out animals of this coloration until after the holiday - the threat remains.


You may do all the right things to protect your animal family and the worst may still happen. Make sure your dog or cat is wearing proper identification and give serious thought to micro-chipping them as most shelters now routinely scan for one. If for any reason they escape and become lost, this increases the probability 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. Ohlone Humane Society can also help. Don't wait hoping they will "show up," it could cost them their lives.

Regarding animal shelters - they are presently at capacity and beyond. If you're looking for that special new addition to your family, please first check at your local shelter before going elsewhere. There are amazingly wonderful animals of all description just waiting for you and their forever home. Don't forget them!

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