ORLANDO — On Halloween night, as the sun is setting, expect to see plenty of children in costumes running from one door to the next, eagerly trick or treating and filling their bags with candy.
But wait — never mind the children, who are still likely to be in bed by 8 o’clock. How about all the adults who flock to downtown Orlando at night, roaming along Church Street, many of them fully decked out in their own lavish costumes, drinks in hand, partying well into the night.
No question, Halloween is an active night in the Orlando area, with a lot of parties and spooky celebrations going on.
Before the darkness has set in, though, one county agency is issuing a cautious note — to the folks in the region who are pet owners.
Halloween can be plenty of fun, noted Orange County Animal Services — especially if pet owners take some steps to ensure that their beloved cat or dog is as safe as the little kids are.
“Halloween is a unique holiday that can present a few pet safety concerns,” noted OCAS Division Manger Dil Luther.
The leading shelter in Orange County issued a list of five tips that the agency said could help reduce stress on pets this Halloween night — which, if followed, can also help a pet owner avoid a potentially costly trip to their local veterinarian.
First, if possible, avoid giving out a popular candy item that is loved by kids — but toxic for pets.
“No chocolate,” OCAS noted. “Chocolate in all forms can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Please watch your children’s trick-or-treat bags carefully and keep them in a place your pet can’t reach. If your pet does ingest something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.”
The agency is also urging families that use candles on Halloween night, such as in a well-carved jack-o’-lantern, to be “cautious of your pets as these pumpkins are easily knocked over by pets and can cause a fire. Curious kittens are especially at risk of burning their paws as candles flickering in a pumpkin may look like a new toy to some cats,” the agency noted.
Be careful about putting your pet in a costume, OCAS cautioned, even if they look oh-so-cute in one.
“Only pets who genuinely enjoy wearing a costume should wear one, as unwanted stress may occur,” OCAS warned. “Costumes should be comfortable and not constrict the animal’s movement, hearing or impede its ability to breath. Costumes should also not have any small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces as this may cause a pet to choke.”
Remember that indoor pets may see the front door opening up repeatedly for trick or treaters as an invitation to make a speedy dash outside.
“Prevent door dashing – as trick-or-treaters ring the door bell all night long, be sure your pets are not able to dart out,” OCAS noted. “Keeping them in a closed bedroom will prevent this from occurring and help keep them calm if they are stressed.”
Finally, the agency urged families to make sure their pet is wearing proper identification, in the event that the Halloween activities scare them and they run off.
“Be sure to check your local shelter first thing in the morning if your pet is missing,” OCAS noted.
“Following these tips will help keep all four-legged family members safe this weekend,” noted Carolina Devine, the marketing and public relations coordinator at OCAS.
She added that additional information for Halloween Pet Safety tips can be found on ASPCA website.
Orange County Animal Services is Central Florida’s largest pet rescue and adoption center, formed more than four decades ago. Last year, Animal Services received nearly 20,000 animals at its shelter.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..