Dog as Witch

Those of you reading this almost certainly consider your pets to be part of the family. But that doesn’t mean that you'll all be dressing up your critters for Halloween.

If my veterinary experience with owners is any guide, we all vary in the degree to which we’re willing to treat our pets like children — or even walking billboards for our own brand of personal self-expression.

Some of us (myself included) will happily stitch up a cute costume for a charity parade or a photo op. Others will shake their heads at the absurdity of it all. A percentage of you may even claim that this kind of holiday foppery is inherently disrespectful to our animal friends.

But I think that most of us will agree that dressing up is all in good fun — as long as “no animals were harmed” in the making and wearing of the costume in question. That means nothing too hot, heavy or cumbersome. It also means that anything our pets might consider significantly stressful is totally off limits, too.

People Who Scoff at Costumes for Critters

A vocal group, however, holds that owners who subject their pets to any sort of sartorial shenanigans risk disrespectfully humanizing our pets.

Animals, they say, don’t want to be dolled up like a lobster or trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey. They contend that pets have feelings, too, and their contentment and pleasure is every bit as important as their pain and suffering. After all, no animal would ever elect to don a pink wig and polka-dotted dress in the absence of human intervention.

This is true.

Yet while we can all agree that pets can feel, some of us believe the pet costume thing is no different from dressing up babies like pumpkins, spiders and ghosts — and no more humanizing than giving a pet a “human” name or putting a sweater on her in the winter.

So what does it say about us when we’re willing to dress up our beloveds in sometimes disturbing garments? Does it mean that we’re perhaps not so lovingly inclined after all? Or is it evidence of our extreme esteem for pets that we’re willing to expend loads of time and energy on stuff as extraneous and superficial as a Halloween costume?

For my part, it all depends on the comfort of the costume, the pet’s personality and whether or not the owner’s intentions are to simply exhibit a pet’s adorability. Anything else can easily be construed as disrespectful to the animals we’ve pledged to care for — and rightfully deserves our condemnation.

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