Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Happy Howl'O Ween for Dog Lovers

BOSTON--(Oct. 25, 2008) Phyllis Meadows (left) and Laura Johnson (above) dressed as Luigi show off their pets’ costumes at the Howl’o’ween contest sponsored by 93.7 Mike-FM at Fanueil Hall.

Tory was a cowboy for Halloween wearing a tiny pair of denim pants, a checkered vest and a red bandana over his bright white fur along with a mini hat dangling off his ears.

“Such a good boy. How cute are you?” Phyllis Meadows asked her pet Pomeranian and poodle mix after dressing him up.

Meadows was just one of many who showed off their pet dogs on Saturday outside of Faneuil Hall in the second annual Howl’o’ween costume contest sponsored by the radio station 93.7 Mike-FM.

More than 60 dogs were registered in the contest held in downtown Boston, as a way for pet owners to celebrate their love of animals.

“People love their pets so much and some like dressing them up so this event is sort of the next level up for them to show off the care and love that they put into their dogs,” said Bethany Tripp, director of radio relations at 93.7 Mike-FM, in an interview while standing outside Quincy Market.

Tina and Paul MacEachern said they treat their dogs Brewsky and Brady like members of the family.

“Brady’s dressed up like Kevin Garnett today,” said MacEachern who wore a Celtics cap while his Bull mastiff had on a Garnett jersey and white headband.

Pamphlets were set up on the registration tables for people to take and donations were accepted for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“Animal abuse is one of the worst crimes because there’s nothing they (animals) could have done to deserve it,” said Meadows a resident of Revere who owns four other dogs in addition to Tory. “In a way, it’s like child abuse because they’re innocent.”

She said she loves pets because “they’re always happy to see you when you get home. They don’t ask you ‘why’d you do that’ or ‘why’d you say that’ and they just nestle up next to you,” she said. “It’s unconditional love.”

While many people treat their pets as members of the family and adorn them with clothes and “people food”, there are also some who grossly mistreat their animals.

Peter E. Gollub, the director of law enforcement at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the MSPCA investigated approximately 3,100 cases of animal abuse last year.

The MSPCA is a non-profit organization that provides veterinarian services as well as adoption centers and law enforcement officers to investigate cases of abuse across the Commonwealth. The organization also works to spread awareness and promote better animal protection laws in the state and nation.

Gollub said in a telephone interview that animal cruelty, which may not always capture the public’s attention, should be a concern to people because it’s “against the law and newsworthy for all the same reasons that anything else against the law is noteworthy or newsworthy.”

Animal cruelty is a crime in Massachusetts that could result in up to five years in prison. Most of the cases tend to stay in district court and are punishable by two and a half years according to Gollub.

He said that animal cruelty should also be a concern because “where there’s smoke there can be fire.”

“There have been studies that looked at animal cruelty as a red flag which might incline one to wonder if there’s cruelty in other areas, like to people,” he said.

A research study by professors at Northeastern University and the MSPCA conducted in the 1990s examined the relationship between violence against animals and crime. Results showed that 70 percent of those who abused animals had also been involved in other violent crimes such as domestic violence, murder, or drug use.

Gollub said that protecting animals can help elevate society as a whole and referenced the Mahatma Ghandi saying about the greatness of a nation being judged by the way its animals are treated.

“Taking a moment to think about how we treat our animals is important. Sometimes it’s necessary to reawaken the empathy in our ‘hurry hurry I haven’t checked my blackberry in five minutes’ world,” said Gollub.

Dog owners certainly took the time to show off their creativity and love of animals at the radio station’s costume event which featured a first place prize of $500.

Revere resident Paula Jeffrey, who used to design children’s costumes, and her neighbor Carmen Ortiz dressed up their dogs as Tinker Bell and Captain Hook and had them sit within a mock alligator to go along with the Peter Pan theme. Last year the two dressed up their pets in a Rapunzel and Prince Charming theme at a different event where they won first place.

“I moved into the neighborhood about three years ago and my neighbor was into costumes so that’s how it all started,” said Ortiz. “I’ve always loved dogs. They’re loyal and all they want is some love and attention.”

Laura Johnson of Medford, who like a few others decided to dress up along with their pet, was Luigi while her English bulldog was Super Mario from the popular video game series.

“My sister-in-law’s dog was supposed to be Luigi but they couldn’t make it today, so I filled in,” she said smiling as she readjusted her mustache.

“Me and my husband always wanted a dog and after we bought a house, it seemed to be the next step,” she said.

When asked about animal abuse, Johnson said she’s one of the people who “gets the waterworks anytime that Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial comes on.”

The MSPCA’s law enforcement director, who started out as a veterinarian before later going to law school and working at the district attorney’s office, said on Monday in a phone interview, “One of the things that’s special about animals is that they are often capable of capturing the human attention and emotion and I think because of that they’re almost like special ambassadors.”

“Aesop’s fables were all written with animals and I don’t think that was by accident. There’s something about animals that captures the attention and imagination of people,” said Gollub.

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