News Column

Pets are Getting Halloween Treatment From Owners

Oct 15 2012

Kellie B. Gormly

Pets Halloween

In the Shively household, Adora -- a pit bull and American bulldog mix -- is the Halloween queen, with many eye-catching costumes.

Sarah Shively, Adora's owner, dresses up her dog, not just for Halloween, but for many local animal events. Adora has worn costumes including a football, a feathered-pink girly tiara, a doggie ballerina tutu and doggie hoodies. Adora, who recently was certified as a therapy dog and even has a Facebook fan page, has been a good sport about wearing the costumes.

"She's gotten to be so accustomed to it. When I have a hoodie, she comes, she sits and she knows she's getting it put on," says Shively, 24, of Hookstown, Beaver County. Shively is the outreach coordinator at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, where she adopted Adora. "I think she just likes the attention she gets from it.

"Some people think it's crazy ... but (Adora) enjoys it," Shively says. "If she ran away from me, I wouldn't do it to her ... but she seems to enjoy it."

Many people might say it's silly or excessive to dress up a pet in a Halloween costume, but Adora has plenty of company. According to figures from the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation, pet owners are expected to spend a record $370 million on Halloween costumes -- an almost 20 percent increase from $310 million last year. The American Pet Products Association, based in Greenwich, Conn., reports that in 2010, 9 percent of dog owners bought clothing and holiday costumes for their pets, which more than doubled the 4 percent from 2004.

The pet Halloween costumes, mostly for dogs and sold in pet stores and online, come in a range of sizes and styles, with evergreen favorites like pumpkins selling every year, says Joe Moore, manager of the PetSmart in Robinson.

"I think with pet parents, most of them like to (clothe) pets in the same looks that are popular for adults and kids," Moore says. "This year's ... running the gamut from the always-popular pumpkins to bumblebees."

PetSmart carries numerous pet costumes, including Marvel Comics and DC Comics characters such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Martha Stewart Pets makes costumes such as spiders, pumpkins and dragons, for sale at PetSmart. This year, after rock star Bret Michaels' "Pets Rock" campaign, PetSmart is selling many of Michaels' rock-themed costumes -- including a tour-bus costume, and a Michaels' Halloween wig with a bandanna.

The costumes come in sizes from extra large for big dogs to extra small for toy dogs; and pets can virtually "try on" the costumes using the Spooktacular Costume Machine on PetSmart's Facebook page. The occasional highly tolerant cat will wear an extra-small-size costume, although dogs tend to be more cooperative about wearing clothes, Moore says. Some playful cats also wear Halloween wigs, like rainbow clown and funny mohawk wigs, he says.

Owners don't think twice about purchasing costumes for their pets because they consider their pets family members, Moore says.

"They're a part of the family," he says. "That's one of the reasons we call (owners) pet parents. It's not silly, and it's not strange anymore."

Shively agrees. Adora is her kid, and her kid gets a Halloween costume.

"I don't think it's ridiculous at all," she says. "I don't have children, so she is like my child who I would do anything for."

Jolene Miklas -- spokeswoman for Animal Friends, a shelter and adoption center in Kilbuck -- sees many dogs in costume at Animal Friends events, especially the annual Howl-o-Ween costume parade this past Sunday. She sees a lot of doggie angels and Steelers, fairies and superheroes -- much like you see on human trick-or-treaters on your porch Halloween night. Costumes are so popular that Animal Friends sells a few in the gift shop.

"Just like parents and kids like to get dressed up together, pet owners like to celebrate the holidays with their pets," Miklas says.

Sometimes, people will take their dressed-up dogs trick-or-treating with the kids. Other times, the dog will tolerate a costume for a few minutes and get a cute photo taken, Miklas says.

"Most dogs are good-natured about it," she says.

Marlane Westerman's Puggle dog, Ike, digs his costumes, the Ross resident says. He'd better like them. Creative members of Westerman's family have been making wacky costumes for Ike for the past seven years, with costumes including a jack-in-the-box, a goggled dog jumping out of a cannon, a leprechaun sitting in a pot of gold, and a mummy. This year, Ike pranced around at the Howl-o-Ween parade dressed up as a robotic "robo-dog."

"For some reason, Ike loves to get dressed up," says Westerman, 60, a volunteer at Animal Friends.

Making the costumes, she says, has become a fun family project.

"What makes it fun is, this dog loves it," says Westerman, who sometimes matches her own costumes with her dog's. "He thinks its great. ... He enjoys the attention."

Source: (c)2012 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.). Distributed by MCT Information Services

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