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’s Babble.com. Find her on her blog, Some Puppy To Love, Twitter, or Facebook.
As many families plan barbecues and Independence Day celebrations, pet parents should also include their furry friends in holiday plans. Between navigating a house filled with guests and booming fireworks going off outside, it is common for dogs to run away and for a pup’s escape to go unnoticed.
Here are some tips to safeguard your beloved pooch and enjoy a festive Fourth of July party:
Getting Lost: Loud fireworks scare many dogs, and festivities including visits from friends and family often create extra distractions for pet parents. It’s best to make plans for your dog before guests arrive. Try to keep him in a gated area where he can see people but cannot get out. If your dog is anxious, consider keeping him in a quiet but cool bedroom and make it a point to check on him regularly.
IDs, Please: For added insurance, ensure your pet is wearing proper identification tags that list their name, your name, your home address and phone number.
Avoiding Alcohol: Keep alcohol out of your dog’s reach. Ingesting alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, difficulty breathing coma and even death in pets.
Prevent Burns: It’s not a good idea to give your dog (or your kids for that matter) free roam of the yard when the grill is on. Burns can happen in an instant.
Steer Clear of Fireworks: If your dog is afraid of fireworks, place them in a cool, closed room until the explosives are over. It may be helpful to play soothing music for your pet during the fireworks display. If you’re traveling to view fireworks elsewhere, it’s best to leave your pets at home.
Poisonous Products: Keep matches, citronella candles, bug sprays, sunscreens and lighter fluid out of your dog’s reach. These products can all cause serious health problems for your pup.
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blogGrown and Flown
It’s the beginning of 2014, which is a customary time to think about the brand new year and finalize a list of resolutions. Each year, by the time January 1 arrives, I have scribbled down a list of “be better-do-better” goals that, unfortunately, fade from memory as my attention turns to the next holiday on the calendar. This year my strategy is going to be different. I am making five resolutions with my two Labrador retrievers, Gus and Moose, as partners in hopes that they will be daily reminders to help keep me on track.
1. Increase my exercise. Every morning, regardless of the weather, I take Gus and Moose on a leash walk lasting no longer than 15 minutes. This year, I resolve to walk further, giving each of us a better daily workout.
2. Practice preventative health care. I wouldn’t dream of neglecting my dogs’ annual vaccinations. Now, as I make their vet appointments, I will also schedule my yearly doctors’ visits and not let my preventative health care lapse, either.
3. Cut back on snacks. Dropping a few pounds has made every one of my annual lists with paltry results to show. Reducing the human food we give our dogs as snacks while cutting back on my own grazing is a way I can be mindful of the harm overeating does to both canines and humans.
4. Help others. Moose and I are a certified Pet Partners animal therapy team and we visit patients at New York-Presbyterian Hospital weekly. I see the joy he brings with each session and resolve to do more to help others.
5. Express gratitude. Whenever they wag their tails, our two happy dogs elevate my mood, too. They inspire me and, though I lack a tail to wag, I have countless ways to express my appreciation for all the joy in my life, including the happiness brought to me through pet ownership.
Thanks, Gus and Moose, for the daily reminders of my 2014 resolutions. With you as my partners, I hope to be more successful in focusing on my goals all year long.