Celebrate Halloween Safely with Your Pets

Halloween is a favorite holiday for people, but not for pets. Decorations, costumes, trick-or-treaters, and costume parades can be frightening – and sometimes dangerous – for our pets.

Halloween is a favorite holiday for many people, but not necessarily for pets. Spooky decorations, elaborate costumes, trick-or-treaters at the door, and costume parades can be fun for kids and adults. But be aware that Halloween activities can be frightening – and sometimes dangerous – for our pets that might not share their humans’ enthusiasm for the occasion.

Here are some suggestions to help keep your pets safe this Halloween.

Keep treats away from pets.

Make sure your bowls of candy and other treats are safely out of reach from your pets. Chocolate —especially dark chocolate—is toxic for cats and dogs. Sugar-free candies that contain xylitol, a sugar substitute, also can cause serious health problems for pets. Keep your stash away from your pets. And if you have children, make sure they’re aware of the dangers of sharing their treats with pets.

If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic, immediately seek medical attention. If you’re not certain what to do, immediately call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435

Keep an eye on decorations and electrical wires. 

A curious pet can give your lit Jack-o-lantern a tumble and start a fire or get burned by candle flame. And while pumpkins and decorative corn aren’t considered toxic to pets, they can cause stomach upset if they are ingested. As for electrical wires, they should always be kept safely away from all pets, especially rabbits and other critters who like to nibble.

Costumes aren’t for every pet.

Dressing up pets in fun costumes and participating in pet costume contests and parades has become extremely popular. But not every pet wants to be dressed up like a weenie or fairy princess. For some pets, donning a costume can create stress, or even panic. 

If you plan to dress up your pet, make sure he or she is comfortable with the costume, and doesn’t exhibit signs of anxiety or fear. Signs of discomfort can include a tucked tail, hunching over, ears folded down, or darting eyes. 

Make sure the costume doesn’t interfere with your pet’s ability to move, see clearly, or breathe comfortably – the same precautions you would take for dressing up a child. Make sure the costume doesn’t include items that your pet can chew or could cause them to choke. It’s always a good idea to give your costumed pet a trial run ahead of the big event. If she shows signs of distress or resistance, it’s best to nix the costume and substitute a festive collar or bandana.

Neither are costume parades.

Unless your dog is comfortable with crowds and noise, skip the parade. Stay home and watch a spooky movie together, and snap a great selfie or family photo of you and your buddy enjoying healthy Halloween treats.

Make sure your home is a safe place for your pet.

Be sure all of your pets are indoors before nightfall on Halloween so they don’t run off when trick-or-treaters hit the streets. (Cats are always safest inside your home, regardless of what day it is.) 

Trick-or-treaters or other guests arriving at your door can make any pet feel anxious, fearful, and protective. It’s a good idea to keep your pets in a calm, familiar space within your home, away from unfamiliar visitors, new sounds, and open doors that might allow them to escape. If your pets are used to being crated and consider their crate “safe space,” let them retire to their crate for the evening. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) suggests creating a “haunted house” out of cardboard boxes for your cat. She can stay safely snuggled in until the evening’s activities taper off. Even if your Halloween guests are familiar to your pets, remember that masks and costumes can make them appear unfamiliar – evening frightening – and react unpredictably.

Make sure your pets are microchipped and wearing ID tags. Be sure microchips are registered with your most current information and that ID tags feature your phone number. If you pet should escape through an open door, your chances of being reunited with them are greatly improved.

Halloween can be a fun holiday to share with your pets. Just make sure you’re celebrating with them sensibly and safely to keep them out of harm’s way. We invite you to follow us regularly on Facebook and Twitter for more pet-related information and updates.

Posted in Cats, Dogs, Safety/Emergency | Tagged , ,

Finding Care for Your Pets During Challenging Times

This month we celebrate Responsible Dog Ownership Month. So we think it’s a good time to talk about ways New Yorkers who share their lives with all kinds of pets can find the tools they need to be responsible pet owners.

For many pet owners, these are difficult times. Meeting even some of their pets’ most basic needs is challenging. Rising prices have created challenges for people struggling to afford pet food and veterinary care. Lingering pandemic-related conditions and shortages of veterinarians, vet techs, and other pet-related service providers have left many pet owners scrambling to find affordable and timely care. Spay/neuter appointments, routine and preventive vet care, and emergency medical care all feel out of reach for many pet owners. 

Every day, the Mayor’s Alliance responds to emails from people looking to care for their pets responsibly. Most requests are for free and low-cost spay/neuter resources, medical care for a sick pet, vaccinations, microchips, free pet food, and assistance with situations involving community cats. We respond to every request by offering contacts for services we hope will meet their particular needs. 

In 2020, we reimagined our website to be a help-desk for pet owners seeking services. Our Need Help? section provides advice and contact information for pet owners seeking health, safety, and legal resources. New Yorkers looking to report a lost or found pet or report animal cruelty will find useful information as well. Just a sampling of the resources we provide include:

The Need Help? section is easy to locate on our home page.

Reduced-Cost Veterinary Care

Free and Reduced-Cost Spay/Neuter

Emergency Veterinary Hospitals


Dog Licensing

Free Pet Food & Supplies

Pet Emergency Preparedness

Lost & Found Pets

Domestic Violence & Pets

Legal Resources

Surrendering a Pet

Adopting a Pet

Also, those New Yorkers who share their lives with rabbits will find useful resources for veterinary care, spay/neuter, and other topics on our Rabbits As Pets page. 

We know that finding help for your pets when they need it can feel daunting, especially when funds are tight, vet appointments are scarce, and accurate information is elusive. We hope our website helps make it easier for pet owners to find the information they need. And if you can’t find the information you need on our website, you can email us at info@animalalliancenyc.org

Posted in Cats, Dogs, Pet Adoption, Safety/Emergency, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Today’s Outlook: Be Prepared!

Ready New York: My Pet's Emergency Plan

The upcoming anniversary of Hurricane Ida’s deadly assault on New York City and the surrounding area in 2021 is a stark reminder of how vulnerable we are when confronted with extreme forces of nature. This year’s litany of environmental disasters in the US alone – storms, floods, extreme temperatures, and wild fires, among others – signals how more than ever we need to be prepared for the unexpected.

As we move into peak hurricane season, it’s important that everyone have a plan for weathering the perils that could lie ahead. For pet owners, advance planning is perhaps even more critical than ever before.

Ready New York: My Pet’s Emergency Plan is a workbook that outlines important steps pet owners can take to ensure their pets are prepared for all types of emergencies. The workbook, as well as other valuable NYC publications that provide guidance in emergency preparedness, can be viewed online in a range of languages.

For a quick review of actions pet owners can take to prepare for emergencies, we hope you’ll visit https://www1.nyc.gov/site/em/ready/pets.page. Topics ranging from proper identification for pets, evacuating with pets and service animals, transportation options, how to prepare for a scenario in which you’re unable to get home to be with your pet or service animal, how to prepare them for weather or health emergencies, and what supplies to gather for your and your pets’ Go Bags are all addressed in this easy-to-follow summary.

In September – National Preparedness Month – NYC Emergency Management (NYCEM) will present its annual Pets and Service Animal Preparedness Fair. Designed to raise awareness specifically about emergency preparedness involving pets and service animals, the event will take place on September 15 in Union Square Park’s North Plaza, from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  The fair will showcase the resources that city and non-profit organizations provide to ensure the safety of pets and service animals prior to and during emergencies. Service animal organizations will also be present to educate the public about the role of service animals and how they assist people with disabilities. Admission is free to all.

As a member of NYCEM’s Animal Planning Task Force since 2006, the Alliance has worked with the City of New York and numerous task force partners over the years to create and implement a comprehensive plan to keep New Yorkers and their pets safe when disaster strikes. A cornerstone of New York City’s emergency response plan is that in the event that the City’s emergency shelter system is opened, pets are allowed at all City evacuation centers.

To arm yourself with more valuable preparedness information, visit our Prepare Your Pets for Emergencies page for links to a range of expert sources, including American Red Cross, American Veterinary Medical Association, ASPCA, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), RedRover, and others.

On a final note: why microchipping your pets is essential.

During an emergency, the likelihood that you and your pets will become separated is extremely high. Having your pets microchipped is one of the best ways to increase their chances of being reunited with you. To be effective, however, you MUST register the microchip with a microchip registry, and update your contact information whenever you change your address or phone number. Read more about microchipping your pets.

A registered microchip is extremely important as a permanent means of identifying your dog or cat. But we also recommend having a dog tag affixed to your dog’s collar that displays your current phone number. If your dog is found running loose, a Good Samaritan can quickly call you and let you know your dog has been found and make arrangements to be reunited with you.  

If you need more encouragement to microchip your pets, please watch this video.

Posted in Cats, Dog Licensing, Dogs, Microchipping, Safety/Emergency | Tagged

Safe Summer Fun with Your Pets

Safe Summer Fun with Your Pets

With the Fourth of July just a few days away, summer has officially begun. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can give your pets a memorable summer while being safe and sensible.

Plan a Safe Fourth of July 

Despite their appeal to many people, fireworks are terrifying to most of our animal companions. They can become frightened and disoriented by the flashing lights and explosive booms. More pets go missing around the Fourth of July than any other time of the year. But you can plan ahead to minimize your pets’ anxiety and keep them safe.

  • Create a calm and safe space. Close windows and run the air conditioner or fans to muffle the noise. Close shades and curtains to further hide the noise and light flashes. Turn on the television or play soothing music.
  • Make sure to finish up your dog walks and other outdoor activities before it gets dark. A little extra playtime beforehand might tire your dog and help her relax once fireworks begin.
  • Make sure your pets are microchipped and wearing ID collars to make their return to you easier should they run away. And be sure your contact information is up to date on your microchip registration.
  • Be sure to refill in advance any prescriptions your pet takes to keep him calm, and administer it as directed by your veterinarian. Read more about managing fireworks phobia in your dog on the Schwarzman Animal Medical Center’s website.

Keep Your Pets Safe All Summer

Remember these basics to keep your pets safe in the heat.

  • Never leave your pet alone in a parked car. The temperature inside can rise within minutes to above 100 degrees, resulting in injury or death. 
  • Make sure your pets always have access to fresh water, indoors and out, to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • Be sure your pets have plenty of shade.
  • The ground temperature of concrete, asphalt, and sand can burn your pet’s paws. If the ground feels too hot to your hand, then it’s too hot for little paws.
  • Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion. It can be fatal to your pet. Symptoms include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, seizures, vomiting, weakness, and collapse. If you observe any of these symptoms, move your pet to a cooler location and call your veterinarian immediately.

Surf’s Up! Visit a Dog Beach with Your Best Friend

Sharing a romp with your dog on the beach can be one of the most satisfying bonding experiences you and your dog can share. Fortunately for dog owners in the New York City area, including Long Island, they have plenty of great dog beaches to choose from. 

Amanda Brandt recently created a great new website called Dog Beaches Near Me to help dog owners find dog-friendly beaches and lakefront in their area. It’s a well-researched resource that can help you locate dog-friendly beaches close to home or at your vacation destination. 

“Dog rules at beaches can be confusing and they often vary for each beach,” Amanda explains. “Many beaches are dog-friendly, but do not allow dogs to be off-leash, or they only allow dogs to be off-leash while in the water, while many others do not allow dogs at all.”

Amanda’s goal was to create a site that provides clarity to the rules of specific beaches and to help dog owners locate beaches in their area where they can feel comfortable bringing their dogs.

The website also offers tips to help first-time dog beach visitors have the safest and most enjoyable experience possible. 

“Going to a dog beach for the first time can be very intimidating,” says Amanda. “When you aren’t really sure what to expect, it’s easy to feel out of place. This is especially the case if you are not used to dogs who are off-leash.

The website offers some simple tips to help dog owners feel confident and safe at any dog beach they visit. 

Take Your Dog to a Dog Park

If your dog is a dog park regular, then you probably know the drill about what to watch out for to ensure a safe and fun visit. But if you’re new to the dog park scene, you’ll find some helpful advice about how to prepare you and your dog for the dog park experience here.

Take Your Dog to a Ball Game!

The Brooklyn Cyclones invite you to bring your Pooch to the Park on Wednesday, July 6 and Wednesday, August 31.

Fans and their dogs enjoy the game from The Backyard with a special ticket package that includes a leash for when you take your friend for a stroll. To bring your dog, you MUST purchase this exclusive package.

Planning a Road Trip with Your Pets?

It’s great to take them along, but be sure you’re aware of your responsibilities to keep them safe. Check out these tips before you embark on a road trip with your pets. 

Find a Pet Sitter

Some vacations just don’t lend themselves to taking the pets along. If you’re lucky, you have a trusted friend or family member who knows your pets and can care for them while you’re away. But if you need to hire a professional pet sitter, Schwarzman Animal Medical Center offers guidance on the subject. 

Summer should be a joyous time for you and your pets. Be smart, be safe, and have fun together!

Posted in Cats, Dogs | Tagged , , ,

East Village Fifth Graders Tackle Animal Welfare Challenges

When a class of fifth grade students at the East Village Community School (EVCS) decided to focus their spring Service Learning Project (SLP) on the issues of pet abandonment and separation of pets from their owners, they reached out to the Mayor’s Alliance as a source of information.

The Service Learning Project of New York City is a civic engagement program for students in grades K-12. Through SLP’s day and after-school programs, students work together to help solve social problems of their choice, becoming active citizens in our communities.

Leah Elliott, who works with students at the school on East 12th Street in Manhattan, contacted the Alliance on behalf of the students and invited us to send a representative to speak with them as part their project’s research phase. Having learned about the innovative Helping Pets and People in Crisis Program (HPPC) created by the Alliance in 2006 and subsequently transferred to Animal Haven Shelter in 2019, the students wanted the opportunity to interact with an expert in the field.

“This decision was entirely student driven,” says Leah. “They are hoping to learn more about animal abandonment and to figure out how they can make a difference in this space.”

Jenny Coffey, a certified social worker, was our obvious choice to meet with the students. Jenny developed and managed the HPPC Program at the Alliance from 2007 until 2017, and then transitioned the program to Animal Haven, where she currently works. She enthusiastically agreed to accept the Alliance’s invitation to participate, and appeared in person before the class on May 3.

Jenny’s knowledge and years of experience seeking solutions to the myriad challenges that face pet owners dealing with homelessness, domestic violence, mental health challenges, and other personal setbacks provided the students with a rare opportunity to explore their chosen topic with a seasoned expert and pragmatic problem-solver.

“I was inspired to listen to the children talk about animal welfare and wanting to make a difference for the most vulnerable dogs, cats, and other pets,” says Jenny. “These are difficult concepts to learn, and I give each of these kids so much credit. Each child talked about wanting to help animals and alleviate suffering. Their engagement and their willingness to learn is really extraordinary. This program is great.”

The students were well prepared for their meeting with Jenny. They prepared and honed their questions in advance. They shared highlights of their research and listened and interacted professionally with Jenny throughout the discussion.

One student explained that the class chose to focus their SLP on the issue of pet abandonment in New York City because they care so much about animals. She said that many of the students have pets and they didn’t understand why anyone could abandon their pet.

“Before we started research,” she said, “we thought that this problem was because people are mean to their animals. Our research found there are many reasons.”

Another classmate picked up the discussion by identifying some of the reasons their research uncovered as to why people abandon pets. These include housing issues, such as people moving and not being able to take their pets with them, or people being evicted and not being able to take their pets to homeless shelters.

They cited other reasons for having to give up a pet, including costs of pet care, lack of understanding about how to care for a pet with health or behavioral issues, or an owner passing away or getting sick and not having a plan in place for their pets.

Jenny explained some of the gaps that exist in the City’s network of resources for people as well as pets. She also described some of the progress that has been made over the past few years with regard to accommodating pets with their owners in temporary and emergency housing.

The engaging session led to a discussion about specific actions the students can take to help create solutions and remove barriers to people remaining with their pets in times of crisis. One idea discussed involved encouraging families to have a plan in place to care for their pets during emergencies. Another was to make sure community leaders are aware that pets are part of the family and should be considered as such in instances of housing and shelter accommodations.

As the 45-minute discussion wrapped up, the students gave Jenny a round of applause and invited her to visit the class again. Now the students are working on a plan to transform their ideas into action.

The Alliance commends the students for their keen understanding of the importance of the human-animal bond and their dedication to working for change to benefit pets and the people who love them. Our hats are off to Jenny for sharing with the students her knowledge, experience, and valuable guidance.

We look forward to hearing more from the students as they continue their journey to create positive change!

Posted in Helping Pets and People in Crisis, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,