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How to keep your pets safe this Halloween

A spike in the amount of strays is usually noted after the Halloween period, said an ISPCA inspector.

Image: Dog on halloween via Shutterstock

HALLOWEEN CAN BE a dangerous time for animals, and the ISPCA has even reported a spike in the number of strays after 31 October every year.

Chief Inspector Conor Dowling from the ISPCA told TheJournal.ie that noise, flashes and even costumes can frighten animals at Halloween time.

“It is important that you can take certain steps to ensure your pet’s safety,” said Dowling.

He said that malicious incidents are thankfully relatively rare. “For most people in society, the idea of harming an animal is abhorrent and they couldn’t consider it.” But he added that a small minority  might get a kick out of such behaviour.

Fireworks and bangers can particularly upset some dogs. “If you’ve got a dog that’s in a garden and the sky is flashing, banging and whistling, it’s very disorientating and it can be very terrifying,” said Dowling.

He said he has heard of dogs jumping over high garden walls that they normally not be able to get over – purely because of fear.

There have been plenty of incidents where animals might clear what they normally might not be capable of.

There is a spike in the number of strays after the Halloween period, where animals have run out of fear, instincts have kicked in – fight or flight – and they have chosen flight and run off. In all the activity, they become lost.

What can you do to keep your pet safe?

While not every animal is affected by Halloween activity, Dowling advised:

  • Keep the animal inside.
  • If it is a pet such as a dog, keep the room curtains drawn so noise and flashing is somewhat muted.
  • Try and keep cats indoors.
  • For equines, put them in a in secure stable. For smaller animals that live outside, bring their hutch or cage into a shed. Cover it with carpet or blankets to muffle the outside sound.
  • Play music or keep the television on to take the edge off noise from outside.
  • You could set up a ‘secure area’ within the house, such as a table with a blanket over it, where the animal can retreat to.
  • Feed the pet or play games with them, to distract them.
  • Don’t cuddle, pet or comfort the dog too much. “This reinforces the idea this should be scary and they are going to need comforting.”
  • In extreme cases, some pheromone treatments can be gotten from the vet.

Violence towards animals

Dowling and other ISPCA inspectors have seen some shocking incidents on Halloween nights.

“On one occasion a couple of years ago there was a horse in Cork who was deliberately set alight,” he said. The horse made a full recovery.

On another occasion, a dog lost its jaw and had to be put down after a firework was put in its mouth.

Dowling said of the violence towards animals that was recently featured in the TV show Love/Hate:

If nothing less what the programme has done is it has highlighted these crimes against animals. It’s very important they are investigated and taken seriously as they are indicator crimes.

In the programme [the character] is becoming involved in this violent world and no doubt the violence he is involved in is going to escalate and he is going to be involved in violence towards humans. It does reflect reality in that the sort of people who are capable of being violent towards animals are also capable of being violent toward humans

Dowling advises anyone who witnesses what they think may be violence towards animals to contact the ISPCA, and their local garda station.

Read: Animal rights group to contact schools after cats killed with firecrackers in Drogheda>

Read: Over 40 complaints lodged over Love/Hate cat shooting scene>

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