Is it wrong to dress up your pets?
Halloween is a big business in the UK with an estimated £268 million spent on the holiday in 2012, according to a YouGov survey. You needn’t look far among the pumpkins and piñatas before the huge range of pet fancy dress costumes appear, ready to tempt pet lovers to part with their cash.
The UK pet clothing market is also a multi-million pound sector, a survey by MTW research expected Britons to spend a staggering £30 million on frocks and frills for their pets last year.
But while a bulldog dressed as a walrus or a Jedi Jack Russell may seem adorable to some, it sparks a debate among pet owners which is particularly prevalent at Halloween.
We are a nation divided on the holiday as a whole, as the YouGov survey found that 53% of consumers thought that Halloween was a ‘fun event for kids’ whereas 45% viewed it as an ‘unwelcome American cultural import’.
So, is dressing your pet up just harmless fun or a cruel by-product of the American import?
Just for warmth
Many argue that the coats they adorn their cats and dogs in are merely for warmth in the winter months, as some breeds with short coats will suffer from the elements otherwise. These functional winter jackets do serve a purpose; poodles with cropped fur, which prevents matting, are one case where an extra layer of warmth could be necessary.
Age, size and breed all play a part in determining whether the creature comfort of a coat is appropriate.
For bigger dogs, who were born with thicker coats to help them regulate temperature it would simply be uncomfortable, too warm, and prevent them from doing what dogs do best: running, jumping and playing.
But there is a wide gap between a functional jacket and a diamante tutu, some people are choosing to treat their pet more as a fashion accessory than an animal, they accessorise and glam them up. They say it’s a dog’s life, but imagine the humiliation of being stuffed in a leopard print leotard and paraded around in public without the ability to object or being dressed as a cheerleader against your will.
Dog fancy dress competitions are now common in dog shows, with Diva Dogs Day trumping them all as a kind of beauty pageant for canines. The organisers invite dog owners to ‘enjoy the world of glitz and glamour doggy style’ at the event in Chelmsford, where classes include: Funkiest hair-do, Blingy-ist Bitch, and Pimped Pooch.
This is a far cry from Crufts but with a record-breaking number of fancy-dressed dogs in the building last year, its popularity cannot be denied.
Is it a doll or a dog: a question often pondered when cats and dogs are put in prams or handbags and dressed up in human style clothing. The Beckham’s were criticized a couple of years ago for giving their bulldog, Coco, a pink manicure and Paris Hilton is renowned for the trademark carriage of her Chihuahuas in designer handbags.
The celebrity endorsement of such behaviour inevitably has a lot to answer for in the growing culture of pet preening, but is it really doing much harm?
According to PETA it is damaging and Chihuahuas are the victims of the fashion trend. San Francisco Animal Care and Control is overrun with abandoned Chihuahuas after celebrities, such as Hilton, portray the breed as arm candy rather than a companion for life, leading to impulse purchases and subsequent abandonment.
Pets have feelings too
Of course, these are extremes, and the debate is on-going. Halloween costumes for pets are one thing and can be harmless, but nail varnish and hair-dye are on another scale.
Using chemicals on an animal’s skin in the name of fashion, which can cause burns on humans, can lead to health problems such as skin irritation and chemical burns.
So consider the health and well-being of your pets before you succumb to seasonal fads. While it may be entertaining at the time, your pet may not thank you for the ridiculous and uncomfortable attire.
So what do you think, should you save your money and buy a pumpkin instead or are occasional animal dress-ups just a bit of festive fun?