Mumble was a beautiful cat. With his thick, lush coat that was truly as silky to the touch as it appeared and his big, green eyes, he easily caught the attention of the neighbors as he made his daily rounds. Gin was a handsome Labrador Retriever whose penchant for tennis balls (and rocks) meant he was always happy to play with anyone willing. And Tick-Tock was an adorable pygmy goat, tame and trained to be a pet and well known for his habit of wiggling his bearded face through the fence to eat the next-door neighbor’s flowers. What did all three of these beloved pets have in common? All three were black, and all three were abused and tortured as part of someone’s sick Halloween fun.
Rumors, myths and urban legends abound when it comes to the prevalence – or lack thereof – of Halloween-related animal deaths. Believers often claim these deaths are not only common but constant while naysayers firmly deny the possibility of any such evil. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Although mutilated pets do not appear in droves at the local veterinary hospitals or animal shelters, it does happen. Mumble had the backs of all four ankles cut open, her tail cut off and was obviously hung using the wire that was still embedded in her neck. Gin had been partially skinned and had his tongue removed. Tick-Tock was stabbed numerous times around his throat and down his back. The cold, hard facts are that although there are people foul enough to torture animals year-round, it is more likely to happen on and around Halloween.
There is one aspect of the urban legend that is mostly a myth, however, and that is the Satanic ritual element. The majority of animal abuse and mutilation is carried out by people who are perverse, twisted individuals but who have no ties whatsoever to Satanism. Statistically, most tortured pets are abused by boys or young men. That is not to say that women never hurt animals, because they do, but they are far less likely to do so than their male counterparts. In fact, studies show that as many as 68% of women who are victims of domestic violence report that their family pets were also abused, maimed or killed by their abusers. 75% of those instances of pet abuse are carried out in front of the family’s children for maximum psychological effect. And for more than forty years, FBI profilers have known that torturing animals is the hallmark of budding serial killers.
In order to do their part for animal safety, many animal shelters refuse to adopt out black cats in the days surrounding Halloween. Some refuse to allow the adoption of any black pets, period. The reason for the rule tends to be twofold: reducing the chance of abuse and stopping people from adopting a black pet as a seasonal prop, only to return the pet when the holiday ends. And when it comes to who is most likely to see the results of Halloween-inspired torture, the outcome varies. Day clinics, or clinics with daytime hours only, are far less likely to see mutilated pets than 24-hour emergency clinics. Studies show, though, that most cases of abuse or torture are not actually reported. People dispose of the bodies without reporting them or attempt to nurse the animal back to health on their own. It doesn’t always work out that way, though. On Halloween night 2012 a woman called 911 when a horrifically mutilated black cat crawled, dying, onto her front porch. It is also important to realize that it is not only black pets that are at risk but any and all pets regardless of size, species, color or gender. Also in 2012, a family’s white-and-brown speckled terrier was stolen and the little dog was found with its spots cut off and tongue removed. Sadly, mutilation and torture do happen, carried out by a blessedly small but horrendously sick portion of the population that sees October as good an excuse as any to carry out their perverted rituals.
Due to the reality of the danger, and due to its year-round potential, it is important yet simple to protect your own pets from twisted strangers: keep them indoors. Yes, cats love to roam, but it’s better for their health overall to be in the house rather than wandering throughout the surrounding area. Even without the risk of being stolen, whether by someone meaning them harm or someone with the best of intentions, diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus are far more likely in outdoor cats. Dogs left sitting in the yard are not only exposed to the elements but get bored and start tunneling out or simply jump the fence. Not every dog will attempt an escape, but it is also incredibly easy for a thief to reach over the fence and pick a smaller dog up or to open the gate for a larger one. And, of course, outdoor dogs are also at greater risk for diseases, illnesses and injuries. Theft happens more often than you might think, in fact, neighbors or someone who passes by your home and decides either you aren’t properly caring for your pet or simply that they’ve always want that breed may steal them. Sometimes the thief means well in their own misguided way, but other times they have ill intent. If you are going to have a pet, then make the effort to keep them healthy, safe and happy by allowing them to live inside the house with you and your family. Do dogs like to run and play outdoors? Of course they do. But those play sessions should be just that, sessions, not a way of life. At Halloween, the risk of poisoning from chocolate and other candy consumptions is not the only risk to your beloved pets. The sad fact is that there are sick people in the world, but the good news is that you can protect your cats and dogs simply by keeping them inside and keeping an eye on them when they’re outside. Cleaning up the extra hair on the floors and putting away slobbery toys is a small price to pay for your pet’s well-being, wouldn’t you say?