October 30, 2023

To Costume or Not to Costume?

If you have been a supporter of the OHS for many years, you’ll have noticed that our messaging around pets in costumes has shifted. Our previous hard line on “no costumes” has softened somewhat, to advocate for “costuming with caution.” Why is that?

Most pet owners who want to stick wings and a tutu on their pet do so with affection. They’re including their pet in their lives and having fun. Isn’t anything that supports the human-animal bond a good thing? Provided your dog is comfortable, there isn’t a difference between a sweater that makes your pup look like a bumblebee and a sweater they wear outside to stay warm.

Costuming shouldn’t place our enjoyment ahead of our pets’ needs, or change our expectations of them. Some pets may not be bothered by or may even enjoy being dressed up, and some pets need onesies, non-slip socks or sweaters for functional reasons. But not all do, and pets shouldn’t be forced into an outfit that causes them fear or discomfort.

There’s a huge social media trend to feature pets in costumes. But if you look closely at these images, the animals are often showing signs of fear or distress. Why are we OK documenting this mistreatment of our pets?

Animals may be our fur babies, but they are not our human babies. A dog in a superhero suit is still a dog who can bite, no matter how cute they are.

So if you decide to dress up your pet this year, make sure their welfare comes first:

  • If your pet is struggling or showing signs of distress or discomfort in a costume, take it off.
  • Make sure the costume doesn’t restrict your pet’s vision, breathing or movement.
  • Most cats and dogs regulate their body temperatures naturally; make sure extra layers don’t cause overheating.
  • Make sure the costume doesn’t create a tripping or choking hazard for your pet.

If your pet is not a fan of costumes:

  • Opt for a Halloween-themed bandana or collar;
  • Use a fun filter instead of dressing up your pet for social media pictures; or,
  • Choose a seasonally themed jacket or sweater, if they usually wear one to stay warm in colder weather.

Halloween can be a lot of fun, but let’s make sure it’s a good experience for our pets as well.

Sharon Miko

President & CEO