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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Happy 'Howl-oween': Pets,owners get into holiday spirit

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Sophie as a little devil.
SIKESTON -- Little Sophie Stevens has been almost everything for Halloween -- from the devil and a bride to a hot dog and a clown.

And while there's no doubt she'll dress up again, the fate of the 6-year-old's costume is all in the hands of her owner, Cindy Stevens of Sikeston.

"She loves to dress up," raved Stevens about her Dachshund.

Stevens, a pet groomer for Tri-County Veterinary Hospital in Sikeston, noted she sees tons of clients who dress their animals, specifically dogs, up each year for Halloween.

"We're real busy in the grooming department close to Halloween because owners dress up their pets either for trick-or-treaters to see or to take to parties," Stevens said. "A lot of people think of their pets as their children."

But trick-or-treating isn't just for children anymore. Pets are also making their way into the Halloween scene.

According to the not-for-profit trade organization, American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, the pet industry is responding with an excess of costumes, treats and safety products to make the scary season fun for pets this year.

"There are so many great products hitting the market that can make Halloween enjoyable for pets," said Bob Vetere, COO and managing director of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association in recent news release. "As long as pet owners use good judgment and make sure their pet is comfortable in costumes or party situations, pets can really benefit from the added attention and affection they'll get for being so festive."

For example, Fox & Hounds has teamed up with Elvis Presley Enterprises to produce the first ever Elvis Presley line of pet accessories. The Hound Dog Collection includes Jailhouse Rock T-shirts and caps, denim canine jackets, black Elvis tees, army jackets, "Love me tender" collars, white leather Vegas collars and a glittering gold tuxedo.

Chomp Inc. offers pet "candy," which includes breath mints for both cats and dogs and beef and cheese candy for dogs.

Rubies Costume Company also offers a distinct line of pet costumes including such characters as a cowboy and Batman. The company even has Halloween-themed bandanas featuring sayings such as "does tricks for treats."

Stevens said most pets she's seen don't mind dressing up in costumes.

"I know Sophie loves it. She loves to be dressed up. I think most animals like as long as it's not so confining," Stevens said.

Dr. Stephen Williams, a veterinarian at Animal Health Center in Sikeston and Charleston, said he doesn't think many owners in the area dress up their pets for Halloween - maybe 5 percent of the pet-owning population.

However, if someone is going to dress up their pet, they should take the appropriate safety precautions, Williams advised. Don't use elastic bandages or anything that could hang them or strangle an animal, he said, reminding there are some people who aren't very nice to pets on Halloween so watch out for those people.

Also, do not feed pets chocolate, Williams said. It is harmful for pets, and it can make them have heart problems, he explained. Foil and plastic candy wrappers can be hazardous if swallowed, he added.

"It's just basically using common sense," said Williams. "It's nice and cute to dress them up, but they can't be left unsupervised."

Sherri Blankenship of Sikeston agreed safety is important.

"It's pretty much what you would do with a child. Don't restrict their airways or their eyes. Keep them on a leash -- and don't let them eat the candy," Blankenship suggested.

Blankenship was speaking from experience. Her 14-year-old daughter's golden retriever, Blitzen, dresses up for Halloween almost every year.

"She's my daughter's service dog, and she goes anywhere my daughter goes. She even goes to church and rides the school bus," Blankenship explained.

The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association also reminds responsible pet owners to keep the following tips in mind to better ensure a happy and safe Halloween for the entire family:

- Be cautious of using candles in your pumpkins and consider safe alternatives that will not pose any threats of fire hazard or potential burns to children or pets.

- Scary isn't fun for everyone. Be aware that strangely pitched music, weird noises, odd clothing and lots of excitement can be taxing on your pet. Make sure to provide a quiet place for them to retreat if needed.

- Be careful your pet doesn't dart out through an open door as they might be frightened by trick-or-treaters.

- Even if your pet is not frightened by trick-or-treaters, remember that trick-or-treaters may be frightened by your pet if met at the door.

Meanwhile Stevens has yet to decide what Sophie will be this year for Halloween. Plus she has another dog - Maijah, a 3-year-old and chocolate lab.

"I've never dressed up Maijah, but I'm going to this year," Stevens paused. "I just don't know what they're going to be yet ."