Metro Weekly

Dressed for Discomfort

Halloween costumes for pets may seem fun, but they're utterly ridiculous

Halloween dogs Photo by WilleeCole Photography

Halloween Dogs – Photo by WilleeCole Photography

There’s something incredibly enjoyable about Halloween. Forget the candy, the ghosts and remembering the dead, though — it’s dressing up that makes All Hallows’ Eve such a blast. Picking out a costume, grabbing a group of friends, and heading to a house party, bar or club — what’s not to love? Dress up (or down, depending on how slutty you want your policeman costume to be) and enjoy adopting a new persona for the evening as you embody your outfit.

Of course, it’s always tempting to go a little further than just a costume. Perhaps you’ll upload a creepy photo as your new Facebook cover picture. Maybe you’ll decorate your porch. You’ll possibly start imbibing at least three pumpkin spice lattés a day. Or, you could be part of a growing trend of people who think it’s perfectly acceptable to dress up someone who can’t complain about it: your pet.

Seriously, folks, we need to talk about pet Halloween costumes. And by talk, I mean put a stop to it. Do you remember, as a child, your parents ever forcing you to wear an outfit you didn’t want to wear? Chances are it’s happened to all of us at some point in our lives, either for a wedding or birthday party or to go to church. We’d struggle and argue, try to wriggle out, complain about being uncomfortable and then finally give in and desperately wait for the moment when we could tear it off and get back to wearing something more natural.

Now, imagine you’re a pet. You’re casually sitting in your bed one day, when your beloved owner walks in with a big bag. Ooh, PetSmart, it reads! You don’t know that because you can’t read, but you think every bag contains a present for you and run towards it. But wait. There’s no treats, no scratching post, no new toy to play with. Nope, your overly-excited owner is looking at you with an odd intensity and brandishing every pet’s worst nightmare: the animal Halloween costume.

Take, if you will, the aforementioned PetSmart. They’re currently offering great deals on Halloween costumes for pets. Desire to dress your beloved pooch up as a bee? You can! Crave a dragon costume for your dog? It’s there! Looking to give your cat devil horns? They’ve got them, and they’re adorable! Do you have a guinea pig or hamster? Why not turn them into a pumpkin, because it’s Halloween and they’ll look so cute! Are you the sort who keeps lizards? Why not spice up their day and delight your friends by giving them tiny bat wings! The possibilities are endless!

They’re also utterly ridiculous. The aforementioned devil horns would block your cat’s hearing, impairing one of their most-used senses. Does the Martha Stewart Pets Cat Face tutu look like an adorable addition to your pug’s wardrobe? Sure, if by adorable you mean uncomfortable and restricting. What about that polyester Superman cape, that’s harmless, right? No. It’s made from 100 percent polyester, which is far from the most breathable of materials, and tightly wrapped around a dog it’s a recipe for overheating, especially if you’re parading them around to the delight of your friends. Let’s not even mention costumes that restrict vision, or smell, or prevent your pet from walking without difficulty.

The costumes even warn that they’re potentially harmful. PetSmart declares, “This item is intended to be used for a short duration, under close supervision. Do not use for more than a few hours,” on almost every product. When was the last time you bought a T-shirt that told you to only wear it for a few hours and while fully supervised? If we’re having to warn owners that something could go wrong by dressing their pets up in these costumes, shouldn’t that be reason enough to suspect that they’re perhaps not the best thing to put your pet into?

If I need to guilt trip you into stopping the practice of dressing up pets for Halloween, I will. Take dogs, for instance. Man’s best friend is so named because he loves us, he will do anything for us. He only wants to please us and have our attention. When you push and pull and cajole him into that lion costume, the one you think he’ll look totes adorbs in, he’ll see how happy it makes you. That will make him withstand any potential discomfort just to please you.

Consider, then, Britain’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which stated a few years ago that dressing up animals could be grounds for prosecution under that country’s Animal Welfare Act. “Dog owners should be aware that… they have a duty of care to ensure that all of their pets’ needs are met,” a spokesperson said. “One of those needs is to express normal behaviour and it could mean that with restrictive clothing they are not able to do that properly.” Perhaps most importantly, they added something all owners should be mindful of: “We’re concerned that any pet should be viewed as a fashion accessory.”

Now, that’s not to say all costumes are bad. If your pet regularly wears a collar, replacing that with a festive collar, or tie, or scarf, or a simple costume that takes the space of a collar and doesn’t restrict them, is perfectly acceptable. Your pet will be at no disadvantage over their normal self. However, if you’re the sort who regularly forces your pet into an uncomfortable, potentially harmful costume for the sake of a few hours of fun — which they are not a part of — you might want to reconsider your actions. Remember that we’re entrusted with the care of an animal that can’t express its feelings — if your pet hates their costume, unless they actively fight you when you try to put it on, you won’t know. They’ll just stand there, trying to please you, as your friends and family comment on how cute they look.

So save your money, buy your pet some treats or a new toy, and enjoy your own uncomfortable costume. Your pet, and society at large, will thank you.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.