Deise Animal Sanctuary’s Pat Edwards says “a white van with fictitious number plates” has been reported to the Gardaí after it was seen taking dogs in Carrick-on-Suir and Mullinavat. She also reports that “a wine-coloured older Mitsubishi Pajero” has been robbing dogs in Clonmel and another white van in Waterford city.
And she expects there to be significant dognappings and more animal cruelty in the run up to Halloween. “Keep your dogs in doors because they are going around robbing them already," Pat tells Waterford Live.
The ISPCA reminds people to be aware of the dangers that Halloween poses to their pets, highlighting measures to safeguard both domestic and wild animals. "Ensure your pets always have somewhere safe and secure, and preferably keep them indoors during the festivities," says ISPCA public relations manager Carmel Murray.
"Noises such as fireworks, parties or trick-or-treaters can drive our pets to extreme behaviour and if they do escape, it puts extra pressure on animal rescue centres, dog pounds and veterinary practices and causes such upset for animals and owners."
ISPCA tips to protect your pets this Halloween
The ISPCA strongly recommend that owners ensure their pets are microchipped (this is a legal requirement for dogs) and have I.D. tags. During the flurry of activity on Halloween night, it is best to keep any but the most social dogs or cats in a quiet, secure room where they cannot dart out the open door. Microchipping is the best way to ensure that a lost pet will be returned to you.
Help your pet deal with stress
Pets should have a secure place to hide if they are frightened by the noise of fireworks or people calling to the door. Leaving the lights low and playing the radio or television quietly can help drown out some of the stressful sounds.
Owners can also train their pets to become accustomed to the sounds of Halloween by playing sounds of fireworks at a low volume and gradually increasing the volume as the night draws nearer.
Not reacting to your pet showing signs of fear may be the best way to help them. Licking objects such as toys filled with peanut butter may help ease your pet’s stress. If they are up for it, playing with them may also be a welcome distraction, but don’t force it if your pet is too upset to play.
If you are concerned that your pet is unmanageably terrified of the noise, you may want to consult your vet in advance to discuss ways for managing your pet’s stress.
Outdoor pets including small mammals or birds should also be brought indoors or into a secure garage or shed where they can be shielded from any loud noise or fireworks. If this isn’t possible, you can also cover hutches or cages with blankets to act as sound-proofing.
Horses, ponies and donkeys should also be microchipped, and those that live in areas with a considerable amount of Halloween-related noise should be securely stabled to prevent them from escaping or hurting themselves.
Keep decorations and sweets out of reach
Dogs and cats should be kept away from the bowl of sweets as well as some Halloween decorations.
Chocolate and raisins are highly toxic to pets, as are any sweets containing the sugar substitute xylitol. Ingesting foil or plastic wrappers can also lead to digestive problems and may require surgery.
Similarly, candles and other decorations pose a risk, particularly for cats who may knock them over or be singed by a flame. Other decorations can also be chewed or swallowed, so ensure they are out of reach of curious paws or noses.
If your pet does ingest something toxic, contact your vet immediately.
Costumes are not fun for pets
Not all pets will tolerate wearing costumes, and it may cause them undue stress. Only dress up your pet for Halloween if you know they enjoy it.
If you do choose to put your pet in a costume, make sure it does not limit the animal’s movement, vision, ability to breathe or behave normally. Also ensure the costume doesn’t have any small, chewable pieces or toxic paints or dyes.
Costumes on people can be equally scary to pets. People donning masks or other costume accessories may be distressing or trigger their territorial instincts. While people might enjoy being scared on Halloween, your pets don’t know costumes are make-believe. If your pet is scared of a costume, ensure they are in a separate room or safe place before you dress up.
Look out for wildlife
Hedgehogs are going into hibernation this time of year, sleeping in wood piles or heavy brush. Ensure you check all wood, scrub and leaves before lighting any bonfires.
Some outdoor decorations such fake spider webs or string lights can snare wild animals, so be careful about hanging them.
Drivers should stay vigilant for animals that may have been spooked by fireworks or other noise and activity.
Report animal cruelty
Stray animals can fall victim to abuse or cruel Halloween pranks. If you witness animal cruelty, notify your local Garda station immediately and contact the ISPCA National Animal Cruelty Helpline on 1890 515 515.