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Keep pets safe and happy this holiday season

Published December 18. 2009 05:00PM

The Humane Society of the United States is reminding people that as they celebrate the season, many of the things that make the holidays special the hustle and bustle of travel and large gatherings, festive food and beverage, and holiday decorations and plants may pose hazards for our canine and feline friends.

With a few simple precautions, animals can share this special time with us safely. The Humane Society of the United States offers tips to keep our four-legged family members healthy and happy.

• A number of seasonal plants are poisonous to pets if eaten, including ivy, holly, mistletoe and others. For more information, visit

• Keep holiday decorations away from pets. Tinsel, bows, ribbons and wrapping paper can be tempting chew toys, but can damage their digestive systems. Remember to keep tree ornaments high enough that they're out reach.

• Provide your pet with a quiet, out-of-the-way room during holiday parties. Though some pets may enjoy socializing, others will be overwhelmed by the excitement of a party.

• As you enjoy candy and other treats, please don't share with your pets. Chocolate can be especially hazardous. And individually wrapped candies are double troubles as some pets might eat both the candy and the wrapper.

• Avoid the urge to give your pets table scraps, especially bones. Bones easily splinter and can cause serious health problems, even death.

• If you are planning to take your pet with you when visiting friends and relatives, be sure to contact them in advance to find out if your pet is welcome. Because of the excitement during holidays, it might be best to board your pet or hire a reputable pet sitter.

• Don't leave candles unattended. Pets may accidentally knock them over and spill wax or start a fire.

If you're thinking about adding a pet to your family at this time of year, choose adoption and visit your local animal shelter. Wonderful dogs and cats are just waiting in shelters to find their forever home like Brownie, a 2-year-old male Boxer mix, currently living in the Carbon County K-9 Shelter in Nesquehoning.

Pet stores and online animal dealers cater to impulse purchases during the holidays and most of their dogs come from puppy mills. Puppy mill dogs are generally kept in overcrowded cages with poor quality food, minimal medical care, and too many suffer from an array of immediate veterinary problems and genetic problems.

Finally, think twice before giving an animal as a gift.

"The recipient of your furry gift may not be ready for the commitment involved with the lifetime care of a pet," says Betsy McFarland, The HSUS' senior director, companion animals. "Instead of a puppy among the presents, give the gift of adoption. Many shelters offer adoption gift certificates so the recipient can be actively involved in choosing the perfect pet who will share their home for years to come."

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