Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for those who may choose to purchase a turkey this year, there’s good cause to be wary of oft misleading meat labels. Turkey farms range from the conventional –where birds are bred to grow to crippling proportions to produce extra breast meat, closely confined by the tens of thousands in artificially-lit sheds, fed antibiotics, and often have body parts painfully removed to prevent stress-induced attacks on one another— to the unconventional, where more balanced or even “heritage” breed turkeys are provided with enriched indoor environments, more space and even outdoor access or pasture.
When reading food labels, don’t take the company’s word for it: be on the lookout for humane certifications that require on-farm audits and represent significant improvements over conventional practices. Other types of labels can represent mere empty marketing—for example, the claim “natural” simply means that a turkey (or any animal) has been minimally processed after slaughter and contains no artificial ingredients or added color, but the animal may still come from a completely conventional farm. Turkeys in America are generally not raised in cages and federal law currently prohibits the use of hormones in birds, so claims like “hormone free” or “cage free” are also essentially meaningless. You can try speaking with your local farmers about their practices to determine whether they’re similarly unconventional and using better welfare.
There are many ways to have a more humane holiday season, including seeking out certified products as well as other better-raised products, along with bringing the “sides” into the center of your plate: there are many delicious, hearty dishes that leave out the meat and will leave you sleepy and stuffed! Either way, we’d like to challenge yourself to an “unconventional” Thanksgiving when it comes to animal welfare.
With Halloween just a few days away, by now you’ve likely lined up costumes for your kids and pets and mapped out your route for trick-or-treating. Before your family heads out for a night of candy and costumes, be sure to check out our Halloween safety tips:
Keep the candy bowl out of your pet’s reach. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems if consumed. Ask your kids to keep their Halloween treats away from your pets, and if you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Be safe around candles and electric lights. If chewed, wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations might cause your pets to suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock. Pets might also knock over carved pumpkins containing lit candles.
Test out your pet’s costume before the big night. Your pet’s costume should not constrict her movement or hearing, or impede her ability to breathe, bark or meow. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider having her skip the costume or don a festive bandana. Also, be sure your pet is wearing an ID tag.
Expecting trick-or-treaters? When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn't dart outside. 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. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.
Trick or Treat! With Halloween just around the corner, we’re looking forward to seeing many creative and adorable costumes among our human and furry friends alike. Here at the ASPCA, some of our favorite costumes involve people and pets dressed in coordinating outfits. We’d like to share a few costumes ideas for your kids and pets:
Monkey and Banana: Your child could choose to be either the monkey or the banana, and dress your pet accordingly!
Police Officer and Police Dog: The ASPCA has partnered with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to enforce animal cruelty laws throughout the city’s five boroughs, and some police officers work alongside canine companions. This costume set recognizes hardworking police dogs in New York City and nationwide.
Tortoise and Hare: Recreate this classic fable with interchangeable tortoise and hare costumes for your child and pet of any breed.
Lion and Zookeeper: This could be the perfect costume set for an outgoing feline and a budding animal caretaker.
When dressing your pet in a costume, it’s important to consider her safety and comfort. Your pet’s costume should not constrict her movement or hearing, or impede her ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider having her skip the costume or don a festive bandana. For more information, check out our Pet Care section for our full list of Halloween safety tips.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for over 10 years. Danielle also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’sBabble.com. Find her on her blog,Some Puppy To Love,Twitter, or Facebook.
Over the past few months, our dog, Hayley has developed a peculiar habit of growling or barking when any member of our family sits down to eat. While she has never turned down a treat, this new desperation for food was a sudden change. At first, I attributed her odd new behavior to her advanced age. But then Hayley’s desperation for extra bites of food grew stronger. She began to scour the living room after school to scout out the kids’ backpacks and break open the zippers to scavenge through the remnants of the day’s lunch. Coupled with that was a more disturbing new pattern: she began having accidents in the house.
This situation brought on a familiar and daunting feeling. About ten years ago, we had an orange cat named Jason. As he grew older, he took to jumping on the counter, biting through the bread bags and munching on plain slices while we slept at night. He also started using our living room chair and even my daughter’s bed as a cat pan. He was diagnosed with diabetes soon after, which accounted for his intense urge to eat and his bathroom issues.
Once I put all of Hayley’s recent behavior patterns together, I made an appointment with our veterinarian for the following morning. As we had already surmised, she was diagnosed with diabetes. Her blood sugar was 675 in the office, and I began a twice-daily routine of injecting her with insulin. Today, on her third blood sugar check in as many weeks, her blood sugar was 615. Our vet suspects that Hayley has an underlying problem that is preventing her blood sugar from regulating, and that she may have Cushing’s Disease.
If it weren’t for our experience with Jason’s health, I might not have noticed Hayley’s issues. Even though she began behaving differently, she has remained in good spirits and doesn’t seem bothered or agitated. Our vet always says that no matter the condition, be mindful of any new or strange behavior in your pets. By staying tuned in to your pets, you can keep an eye on their general health. Hayley is scheduled for an eight-hour blood test next week to determine her underlying problem. As of now, she’s laying in her fluffy bed, tuckered out after a busy day and no doubt not feeling great with a blood sugar in the 600s, but you’d never know it. This little girl, the same one that came to us as an abused little dog who still managed to help my ailing daughter is one tough pup, and hopefully a few months from now, her condition will be under control and she’ll be feeling much better again.
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blogGrown and Flown.
One of the benefits of travel is having a chance to compare the new with all that’s familiar back home. I recently joined my husband on a visit to Peru where we toured Lima, Cusco and the marvelous Machu Picchu. I loved climbing among the Inca ruins, sampling traditional Peruvian dishes and seeing real llamas! There was one thing, though, that I found troubling—the prevalence of stray dogs roaming village streets. We saw them rooting through garbage and standing in dumpsters searching for food, left to fend for themselves.
Taking care of animals has been a priority in the U.S. for nearly 150 years, beginning with the ASPCA. According to the organization’s history, Henry Bergh created the animal protection agency and was instrumental in seeing the first anti-cruelty law was passed in 1866.
The ASPCA notes that by the time Bergh died in 1888, “The idea that animals should be protected from cruelty had touched America's heart and conscience. Humane societies had sprung up throughout the nation—among the first to follow New York's lead were Buffalo, Boston and San Francisco—and 37 of 38 states in the union had enacted anti-cruelty laws.”
As a society, we depend on shelters to do important work for the public good. Animal shelters promote responsible pet ownership, rescue animals in need, and find loving homes for abandoned or mistreated animals.
But shelters can only care for a limited numbers of animals, which is where families in search of a pet to adopt can play an important role.