Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

The information contained in the FAQs section is provided as a courtesy, and does not imply the endorsement, recommendation and/or approval of any company or organization. This information is kept as current as possible and is updated regularly.

About the APCC

Absolutely. Our consultation fee covers as many additional calls pertaining to your pet's current case as are needed to provide the best care and answer any questions that you or your local vet may have. During your initial call, you or your vet will be provided with a special follow-up telephone number to use should you need any further assistance with your pet's case.

While the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is staffed with veterinary experts, our facility is a call center. We work with you and your local vet via phone to provide your pet with the best poison emergency care possible.

No, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center does not test on animals. The center is committed to protecting and improving the lives of animals through the use of case data reviews as an alternative to traditional animal research.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is staffed by 30 veterinarians, including 11 who are board-certified in general and veterinary toxicology. In addition, our experts use Antox, our unique veterinary medical database system of more than two million animal exposure case histories. With the combined knowledge of our experts and our medical database, we are able to provide the most timely and accurate information on the potential effects of poisons and how to manage exposures to them.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is located in Urbana, IL.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center manages an average of 750 calls each day.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (888) 426-4435. There is a $65 consultation fee, payable by credit card, for this service. This includes follow-up consultation should you or your vet need further assistance with your pet's case.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center provides 24-hour-a-day, year-round advice on animal poison-related emergencies to pet parents, veterinarians and animal clinic professionals. With experience in more than two million cases involving pesticides, drugs, plants, metals and other potentially hazardous items, our specially trained staff of veterinary toxicologists has access to an extensive database, which they can quickly access to help diagnose problems and give treatment advice.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center also provides corporate services such as consulting on legal cases, product formula issues, product liability and reporting on alleged cases of animal illness due to product exposure.

The APCC experts are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, make the call that can make all the difference: (888) 426-4435. The call is toll-free. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

Animal Health Services

Animal Health Services provides a wide variety of resources for pet parents. The programs under the Animal Health Services umbrella are:

Our Veterinary Outreach team is comprised of three veterinarians with combined experience in shelter medicine, veterinary forensics, population management, animal abuse and reporting, spay/neuter programs, high-volume spay/neuter and pediatric spay/neuter. In addition to providing expert consulting and developing written materials on veterinary issues in general, the Outreach vets provide specialized training for veterinarians and shelter staff by teaching at universities, conferences and online, and by collaborating with animal shelter workers, veterinarians and community groups.

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The ASPCA maintains a Pet Loss Hotline for people grieving the loss of a companion animal. The hotline provides the opportunity to receive personalized support from a trained counselor. Each year, more than 400 grieving pet owners receive comfort via the hotline, as well as through emails and information on ASPCA.org.

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The ASPCA's Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinics offer free and low-cost spay/neuter surgery and rabies vaccinations to financially needy pet owners in New York City's five boroughs. Our five mobile veterinary clinics contain state-of-the-art surgical suites and ample space for patient care before and after surgery. The ASPCA expects to spay and neuter 30,800 companion cats and dogs in 2009, a 40-percent increase from 2008.

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The ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) offers general, emergency and specialized veterinary care. Fully accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, it is one of the largest, most advanced animal hospitals in the New York metropolitan area. AAH is staffed by more than 20 veterinarians, including board-certified specialists in internal medicine, surgery and oncology, and two veterinarians devoted exclusively to caring for animals who have been victims of abuse.

AAH's extremely high caliber of veterinary care is complemented with affordability and financial flexibility. The hospital staff goes the extra mile to recommend the most efficient courses of treatment and tests, and will work with clients on payment plans and cost reductions for specific procedures. In 2007, the hospital treated 25,287 animals; 4,393 of those were seen as walk-in emergencies.

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Located at the ASPCA's Midwest Office in Urbana, IL, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is the only 24-hour, 365-day facility of its kind in the United States. Staffed by 30 licensed veterinarians—15 of whom are board certified in general and/or veterinary toxicology—the APCC provides pet owners and veterinarians with live, on-call assistance related to toxic chemicals and dangerous plants, products and substances. The Center's veterinary toxicology experts also consult on a wide array of outside projects, including legal cases, formulation issues, product liability and regulatory reporting. In 2007, the APCC handled over 136,000 cases.

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Animals in Research

The ASPCA has several concerns regarding the use of genetically modified animals in biomedical research. The need exists for monitoring, collecting, reporting and analyzing the welfare-related problems and adverse effects (morbidity or mortality rate, intrauterine death) of genetic manipulation. The ASPCA encourages scientists to reduce, replace or refine the use of transgenic animals in biomedical research.

ANSWERS TO VEHICLE DONATION QUESTIONS

Call (866) 789-8627 weekdays 8:30 A.M. to 8:30 P.M., EST; Saturday 8:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. EST

Vehicle Donation to Any Charity, LLC (V-DAC), a fund-raising counsel, runs the ASPCA Vehicle Donation Program. V-DAC is registered with the State of California Office of the Attorney General. The program allows donors to make vehicle donations resulting in cash gifts to a designated public radio or television station, church, school or other non-profit organization. V-DAC is known for delivering the highest net revenue to recipient non-profits than any vehicle donation program in the country.

It usually takes 45-60 days from the time the vehicle is picked up until the car is sold and the transaction is completed. Once the transaction is completed, the net cash proceeds are usually delivered to the non-profit within two weeks.

It will depend on the age and condition of the vehicle. The actual costs of towing, title transfer and handling will be deducted and the net proceeds will be sent to the ASPCA.

If you don't have, can't find or have problems with your vehicle title, call Donor Services at (866) 789-8627. Our call center staff are experts in solving these matters.

You are entitled to deduct the sales price of your vehicle and, if it sells for less than $500, the fair market value of the vehicle.

You benefit from being able to reduce your taxable income when taxes are itemized. We provide you with a sales receipt or IRS Form 1098C.

Your car is assessed to determine the used car market that will yield the best sale price, joining some 43 million other cars resold each year. Most vehicles are sold through wholesale auctions; older, damaged and problem vehicles are often sold directly to dismantlers or recyclers for valuable parts and metals.

Because we work with a very large national network of auction yards, we match your vehicle to the appropriate buyer. For example, recently we took a donor’s 1972 Porsche 911 to a premium car auction, where it netted five figures. Meantime, another donor’s beat up 1991 GMC Jimmy sold for $200 at a dismantler.

We will “Quick Pick-up” a newer car right away. We pick up older cars within a few days of receiving the paperwork you mail in. You will receive a call from our tow service to arrange a convenient time. You do not need to be there. Need to arrange a special pick-up? Call 866-789-8627 and let them know.

It’s easy to donate a vehicle. Either input the vehicle and pick-up info online or by phone at 877-999-8322, and give the info to our trained Service Center Staff. You fill out a few forms (you’ll need to have the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)), and you mail in the paperwork, including the title in states requiring one. You will receive a call from our tow service to arrange a convenient time and location for the pick-up. You do not need to be there.

Yes. We strive to accept any vehicle, anywhere, running or not—cars, trucks, motorcycles, RV’s, boats, airplanes, heavy equipment, farm machinery, etc. No smog certificate is necessary, and we can solve almost all title issues. We pick up anywhere in the country. The only exception is where the transportation costs may be higher than the vehicle value.

NO. There is no cost to the donor or to the charity. All expenses are deducted from the gross sales price and, if the costs ever exceed the price, the company that operates the program covers those costs.

It's simple, fun and free. We convert the car into cash, which becomes a welcome donation to ASPCA, and you are entitled to a tax deduction. We take vehicles in any condition, running or not, virtually anywhere in the U.S., and you avoid the cost and hassle of repairing or selling a car you no longer want.

Anti-Cruelty Initiatives

The Anti-Cruelty Group is the branch of the ASPCA that halts and prevents animal cruelty through professional education, enforcement of New York City's anti-cruelty laws and by lobbying for stronger humane legislation nationwide. The programs under the Anti-Cruelty Group umbrella are:

The ASPCA's Government Relations department works to ensure the strongest possible protections for animals through the passage of legislation and the establishment of public policies that fight animal cruelty. The group helps formulate the organization's policies and positions on animal welfare issues, and then ensures that appropriate measures are adopted at the state, federal and New York City levels through drafting, testifying, direct lobbying, grassroots organizing, development of white papers and letters of support and other legislative means. Our staff works closely with legislators at all levels of government to ensure both the implementation and adequate enforcement of humane laws, and is also active in litigation where animal protection laws are under challenge. In addition, the GR department conducts workshops and presentations to bring important legislative issues to the public's attention. We are also at the forefront of legislative work to overhaul commercial dog breeding operations.

The ASPCA's Online Advocacy program, the Advocacy Brigade, provides supporters with regular updates on the status of animal-related bills and the tools they need to have an effective voice in the lawmaking process.

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The ASPCA's Field Services department focuses on the organization's primary mission of providing effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals. Staff works with professionals in the veterinary, legislative, judicial, law enforcement and social service fields to educate them on prosecuting acts of animal cruelty and strengthening related laws. Because a growing body of research has documented the link between violence to humans and animal abuse, this department also provides resources and training in the successful prosecution of such crimes. The Field Services team includes the nation's premier specialist in veterinary forensics.

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Around the House

Bacterial-related gastrointestinal problems could occur from drinking stagnant toilet water, so it is a good idea to discourage your dog from imbibing from the commode.

Special note for those who use drop-in toilet bowl cleaning tablets: If you follow label directions, most toilet bowl cleaning tablets would not be expected to cause problems beyond minor stomach upset, should a dog take a drink out of the diluted water in the toilet bowl.

Most kitty litter products are made out of organic materials such as bentonite clay or silica. These substances are considered to be chemically and biologically inert, and do not pose a toxic concern for pets. Cats may ingest small amounts of litter when grooming themselves after using the litter box, and these amounts pass through the digestive tract easily without problems. However, if an animal ingests a very large amount of litter (as can happen when a dog "cleans out" the litter box), gastrointestinal upset, constipation, or in rare cases, intestinal obstruction could potentially occur.

The key to using household cleaners in a way that is safe to your pet is to read and follow label directions for proper use and storage. If the label states, "Keep pets and children away from area until dry," those directions should be strictly adhered to in order to avoid potential problems. Many household cleaners can be used safely when the directions on the label are followed exactly. Products that contain bleach can be very effective in safely disinfecting certain household surfaces when used appropriately, but if your pet is exposed to them, they can cause an upset stomach, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea. There is even a danger of severe oral burns if ingested in a high-enough concentration. Please be aware that some detergents can produce similar signs in pets, and cats can be particularly sensitive to certain ingredients, such as phenols.

Medication and products containing harsh chemicals top the list, but a few other common household hazards, like mothballs and fabric softener sheets, might surprise you. Please visit our page on maintaining A Poison Safe Home to see a list of a list of common household items, plants and foods that pet parents will want to keep curious whiskers and paws away from.

ASPCA

I'm a member of the media-where can I find press information?/Has the ASPCA been in the news lately?

The ASPCA is regularly the subject of news coverage in local and national print and broadcast media outlets. Numerous programs, activities and animal-related issues were brought to the media's attention through our ongoing proactive outreach and the handling of daily requests from reporters for expert comment on animal-welfare related topics. ASPCA staff appears in news venues, including top-rated network, cable and local television stations, major newspapers, national magazines, national radio networks and news sites on the internet. For current media news, please visit our online pressroom. Reporters and members of the media, please contact the ASPCA's Media and Communications Department at press@aspca.org or call 212-876-7700 ext. 4655

Why did you choose orange as the ASPCA’s official color?

In September 2005, the ASPCA officially shifted its color palette from blue to bright orange and gray. These new colors were launched in concert with our new campaign, “We Are Their Voice,” and gave a fresh start to the ASPCA’s mission to prevent animal cruelty.

The color orange is identified with vibrancy and energy. (In fact, the members of our logo design team were inspired by a life preserver!) It is our hope that, by identifying the color orange with the efforts of the ASPCA, the public will begin to associate this color with the welfare of animals throughout the United States. We hope that one day the color orange will be synonymous with animal welfare everywhere!

How many ASPCAs are there in the United States?

There is only one ASPCA, and we are headquartered in New York City. Founded in 1866 as the first animal welfare organization in the Americas, we celebrated our 140th anniversary in 2006. Although there are SPCAs and humane societies all over the country, we are not directly affiliated with them. On a local level, we are striving to create a Humane Community in New York City, and we are active nationally, helping America’s animal population via Community Outreach, Government Relations and Humane Education.

Does the ASPCA have member publications?

ASPCA Action is published three times a year and is sent to ASPCA members.

ASPCA News Alert is our free weekly email newsletter. Click here to sign up.

How can I find out about ASPCA fundraising events?

The ASPCA Special Events department creates and engineers major fundraising events for the ASPCA. Each year, this department hosts the National Humane Awards Luncheon, the Bergh Ball, and a celebratory night for our Young Friends of the "A." Additionally, we create and manage all fundraising, cultivation, and staff events, as well as the ASPCA's Annual Meeting. Should you have interest in attending any ASPCA fundraising event, please email Lindsay Sklar in the Special Events department at Katie.Landow@aspca.org.

How do I submit a story to Animal Watch?

ASPCA Animal Watch is no longer being published. Our new member publication, ASPCA Action, features stories of ASPCA rescues and articles about the ASPCA’s national and local programs and events. As the content is developed by ASPCA staffers, we are no longer accepting freelance submissions.

Behavior Issues & Resources for Adopters

Yes, in fact we encourage potential adopters to bring their pets with them for an introduction on neutral ground.

The ASPCA provides behavior counseling over the phone to new adopters.

Yes, the ASPCA offers obedience classes for dogs adopted from our shelter, and the classes are mandatory for puppies adopted from the ASPCA.

The ASPCA does screen all pets for behavior traits prior to adoption. Some of our animals are trained, but others may require a refresher course.

Most of our pets are housetrained; however, if you adopt a puppy or under-socialized adult dog, you may need to work with him during the transition. The ASPCA provides literature to guide you through the housetraining process.

Broiler Chickens FAQ

Nearly all of the over 9 billion farm animals slaughtered for food each year in the U.S. are “broiler” chickens: chickens raised for their meat, rather than their eggs. Almost all of those chickens are raised on industrial farms and suffer horrifically due to selective breeding for fast growth and high breast meat production. In 1923, it took 16 weeks to raise a chicken. Today it takes six weeks. As the University of Arkansas noted, if humans grew at a similar rate, a 6.6 lb newborn baby would weigh 660 lbs after two months.

At this time, the ASPCA is the only large-scale U.S. animal protection group working specifically to improve the lives of chickens raised for meat, and as the country’s oldest animal-protection organization with a dedicated and diverse membership, the ASPCA hopes to drive widespread change in this industry that affects so many animals’ lives.

Learn more about chickens’ lives on industrial farms.

The ASPCA needs members, advocates and consumers to get involved! You can stay updated, keep track of the campaign’s progress and take action to help chickens by visiting TruthAboutChicken.organd by spreading the Truth About Chicken to friends. You can also contact your local supermarket to demand higher welfare, slower-growing chicken.

There are farms that are independently certified according to published animal welfare standards with regular on-farm audits. Animal Welfare Approved meets the ASPCA’s recommendations. Certified Humane and GAP level 2 chickens are raised in conditions significantly better than those within the conventional industrial model but do not require farmers to raise slower growing breeds as recommended by the ASPCA. Further, a small number of farmers, certified and uncertified, are choosing to raise slower growing birds in better conditions. Visit our farmer testimonials page to meet some of those farmers and hear why they made that choice.

The vast majority of the nearly 9 billion chickens raised for meat each year in this country, including many that are labeled organic or free range, are fast-growing birds who suffer from unnaturally fast and often debilitating growth. The ASPCA is working to address this inherent genetic problem across the board, among both industrially raised chickens and those raised in higher welfare conditions.

The ASPCA recognizes that there is a spectrum of animal welfare. Chickens who are raised without routine administration of antibiotics, with access to pasture and room to roam outdoors are in higher welfare conditions than chickens who are routinely administered antibiotics in high-density, indoor, artificially lit facilities. However, the reality is that labels do not always describe the conditions consumers expect. For example, if producers do the bare minimum, chickens raised to organic standards may have only marginally better welfare than industrially raised chickens. To qualify as “free range,” chickens need only have access to the outdoors for an unspecified amount of time, and sometimes the space they are granted or the doors that provide access are too small for all the chickens to fit. We recommend that consumers who eat meat educate themselves on the animal welfare practices related to each label and farm.

They might, but we are heartened by consumer polls that show that Americans highly value animal welfare and food safety and are willing to pay more for ethically produced products. The popularity of cage-free eggs is an example of consumers’ willingness to pay more for a product they believe is better for animals. A national survey by Lake Research Partners and commissioned by the ASPCA revealed that seven in 10 consumers are willing to spend more money for higher-welfare chicken.

Improving the welfare of chickens raised for meat will require some investment by the industry into better breeds and better environments that promote the birds’ well-being. It is unclear how much of that cost would be passed on to consumers, but as supply grows due to increased demand, those costs should come down.

The ASPCA is urging the U.S. chicken industry, food retailers and consumers to move away from the ultra-fast-growing chickens that make up most of the nearly 9 billion meat chickens slaughtered each year in this country and turn to slower-growing breeds. When raised correctly in higher-welfare conditions like those we recommend, slower-growing breeds may also pose fewer health risks to people. Consumers can drive these changes by demanding higher-welfare chicken from companies and the stores where they shop.

The fast growth rates and conditions in which most factory-farmed chickens currently live cause animal suffering and potentially contribute to increased food safety risks. Unfortunately, the kinds of illnesses that can be carried by chickens and affect humans who eat them are not generally apparent on the chickens themselves, and therefore those birds may not get removed from the food chain. In its Risky Meat report, the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that between 1998 and 2010 chicken caused more outbreaks and illnesses than any other meat in the American food supply. A 2010 Consumer Reports analysis of fresh, whole chicken bought at stores nationwide found that two-thirds harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease. Much of the bacteria found on chicken was antibiotic-resistant, a result of the industry’s practice of routinely feeding chickens antibiotics to make up for their compromised immunity due to unnatural growth rates and cramped, unsanitary conditions.

The improvements sought by the ASPCA will lead to healthier birds and potentially healthier consumers. Chickens with slower growth rates who are raised in better conditions could be less likely to require the use of antibiotics to survive and, due to lower stress, are more resistant to infectious diseases.

There are almost no legal on-farm protections for animals. The three federal laws that govern how farm animals are treated do things like limit transportation times, require that animals be stunned before slaughter, and prevent cows who are too sick to stand up at the slaughterhouse from entering the food supply−but all three of these laws exclude birds. While USDA inspectors oversee federal slaughterhouses, neither the USDA nor the FDA is required to send inspectors to farms.

Cleaning Products

I’ve heard that cleaning the home with a vinegar and water mix is a great alternative to using harsh chemicals. Is this solution harmful to dogs and cats?

- John

Dear John,

A solution of vinegar and water used for household cleaning is not likely to pose a health concern for your cat or dog. In fact, most cleaners—natural or otherwise—are typically appropriate for use in homes with pets.

The key to any product’s safety is to always follow label directions. For example, if you’re using a product to clean your tub, and the directions advise you to rinse out the tub after application, please do so in order to avoid skin irritation or gastrointestinal upset if a pet steps in or accidentally ingests any solution still present. Similarly, using a mixture of vinegar and water requires proper dilution and application.

It’s also important to store any unused cleaning materials in a secure location and out of the way of your pet. Following these simple precautionary steps can help keep your pets safe and healthy.

I put automatic toilet bowl cleaner tablets in the back tank of my toilet. If my dog were to drink from the bowl, could it be dangerous?

- Danielle B.

It’s not likely to be, Danielle. If you follow label directions, most toilet bowl cleaning tablets would not be expected to cause problems beyond minor stomach upset, should a dog take a drink out of the diluted water in the toilet bowl. Bacterial-related gastrointestinal problems could occur from drinking stagnant toilet water, however, so it is still a good idea to discourage your dog from imbibing from the commode.

How dangerous is it for a dog to take a drink from a toilet bowl treated with a cleaning tablet?

- Hannah P.

It really depends, Hannah. Most toilet bowl cleaning tablets that are used according to label directions would not be expected to cause serious or systemic clinical problems, provided that the animal does not ingest the tablet directly. Typically, we see only mild gastrointestinal upset. If you feel that your dog may have come into contact with more of the cleaner than would normally be present in the toilet bowl, we advise that you contact your local veterinarian, emergency clinic or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Is Swiffer Wet Jet safe to use around dogs?

- Linda

Swiffer Wet Jet products do not contain cleaning agents in large enough quantities to be a serious hazard for pets. Several years ago, an urban legend spread that it contained toxic antifreeze and killed a dog. This rumor is completely unfounded—our toxicology experts evaluated the product and determined it doesn't contain ethylene glycol from antifreeze, and is appropriate to use in homes with pets.

Like any product, however, it's important to read and follow label instructions to avoid unnecessary exposure. For Swiffer Wet Jet and other cleaning products, mild skin irritation or stomach upset may occur if pets walk through a still-wet floor or lick any spilled solution.

I just got an email informing me that Swiffer Wet Jet contains antifreeze, and has caused liver problems in animals. Is this true?

- Robin M.

Absolutely not! The Swiffer Wet Jet system contains 90- to 100-percent water, propylene glycol n-butyl ether or propylene glycol n-propyl ether, and isopropyl alcohol (1 to 4 percent). These ingredients are safe to use around pets when used according to label directions, and would not cause liver damage at product concentrations. Propylene glycol n-butol/propyl ether differs significantly from ethylene glycol, the potentially toxic ingredient present in most antifreeze products that can cause kidney, not liver, failure.

It is important to note that not all information sent via email or posted on the Internet is necessarily accurate. It’s always a good idea to verify any information regarding pet health concerns with a veterinary professional.

I heard that there was another scare involving Swiffer Wet Jet. It seems that another dog died and a child became ill. Is the product still safe?

- Yvonne R.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Yvonne. We can certainly appreciate your concern. From time to time, this rumor does resurface, even though there is no scientific evidence to support the claims being made. While the reasons for resurfacing aren't clear, the bottom line is that the ASPCA still considers Swiffer Wet Jet to be safe for use in households with pets. And as we've said before, with any household product, it is important to read and follow all directions for use.

For additional helpful information on pet poison prevention, please visit APCC online.

I would like to use peppermint leaves or oil to rid my house of ants. Could this harm my cat?

- Winafred B.

If ingested, the peppermint plant and its oil could indeed potentially cause harm to your cat. Cats are especially sensitive to peppermint oil, and effects such as gastrointestinal upset, central nervous system depression and even liver damage could occur if ingested in significant quantities. Some peppermint oil formulations also contain aspirin derivatives, which could result in additional toxicity. Furthermore, if inhalation of the volatile oil were to occur, aspiration pneumonia may be possible. Based on this, we would not recommend using peppermint leaves or oil in areas where your cat is allowed access.

A friend told my husband that you could use OdoBan for flea control on dogs. Since it is not meant for animals, is this safe?

- Liz R.

It’s a good thing you checked, Liz! OdoBan is a household disinfectant and deodorizer, and should never be used on animals for flea control—or for any other purpose outside of what it is labeled for. To control your dog’s fleas, we recommend that you talk with your dog’s veterinarian in order to obtain an appropriate flea treatment program.

Can I use mosquito repellent on my dog?

- Michelle S.

Michelle, pet owners should never use any product on their animal that is not specifically created for them. Certain mosquito repellents that are made for human beings contain DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). The use of DEET on pets is not recommended, as dogs and cats are very sensitive to it and may develop neurological problems if the product is used on them.

If you want to keep mosquitoes away from your dog, we suggest asking your veterinarian for an appropriate product to use.

My dog has a habit of licking the floor, and we’ve just tiled it and now have to seal the grout. Because of his habit, I’m concerned about the safety of the sealer. Can you advise me, please?

- Barbara D.

We sure can, Barbara. Cured or dried grout sealer would not typically be expected to pose a poisoning risk to your dog. Nevertheless, we advise keeping your dog out of areas with uncured, wet, or drying grout sealer, due to skin and gastrointestinal irritation problems that could result from such contact.

My kitty loves to roll around and play in fabric softener sheets. Could they be harmful to him?

- Monique R.

Potentially yes, Monique. Fabric softener products can contain detergents known as cationics that have the potential to produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, particularly when the sheets haven’t yet been used. These effects include drooling, appetite loss, oral burns and, in some cases, possibly even ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract.

While dogs and other animals can also be affected, cats are especially sensitive to cationics. As such, we would advise not to let your feline friend play with fabric softener sheets—whether fresh or used.

I'm looking for cleaning products for my home that are safe to use around pets. Do you have any suggestions?

- Donna A.

While any chemical can be potentially toxic depending on the circumstances of exposure, many household cleaners can be used safely when used per label directions. For example, products that contain bleach can be very effective in safely disinfecting certain household surfaces when used appropriately, but can cause upset stomach, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea (and even severe oral burns) if ingested in a high-enough concentration. Some detergents can produce similar signs in pets, and cats can be particularly sensitive to certain ingredients, such as phenols.

The key to using household cleaners safely in households with pets is to read and follow label directions for proper use and storage. For instance, if the label states, "Keep pets and children away from area until dry," those directions should be followed in order to avoid potential problems.

Whether an animal shows serious clinical effects depends on many factors—the amount of product the animal was exposed to, the conditions under which the animal was exposed, the animal's species, age, weight, and overall health. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, it’s a good idea to contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for help.

Is it OK to clean dog toys with bleach?

- Deb F.

Just like virtually any chemical, natural or man-made, bleach can be harmful if used inappropriately or if an exposure to a large enough concentration occurs. Because of this, Deb, it is important to follow instructions for use in order to help avoid damage to what you are cleaning, and to ensure that a potentially harmful exposure does not occur.

The bottom line is this—disinfecting your nonporous dog toys with a properly diluted bleach solution, followed by a thorough rinsing and airing out to remove any residue, would not be expected to cause harm to your pet. However, if you prefer to use an alternative without the potential for harsh fumes, you can try using hot water along with a mild liquid dish soap, such as Dawn or Palmolive, to clean your dog's toys.

I work in a small, no-kill shelter and we seem to use a lot of bleach for cleaning cat cages. Is bleach safe to use around cats?

- Erin O.

Good question, Erin. Like virtually any chemical, natural or man-made, bleach can be potentially harmful if used inappropriately, or if an exposure to a large enough concentration occurs. Therefore, it is important to follow the instructions for use in order to avoid a potentially harmful exposure.

The bottom line is this—cleaning cages with a properly diluted bleach solution, followed by a thorough rinsing and airing out, would not be expected to cause harm to the cats. However, if you prefer to use an alternative without the potential for harsh fumes, you may wish to talk to your shelter's veterinary contacts. They should be able to recommend a disinfectant that will give off less fumes, contain the appropriate germicidal properties and will be safe to use in the cats' environment.

I am planning on using a carpet shampooing machine in my home. Will this be safe for my ferret?

- Monique C.

Most carpet cleaning products can be used safely in households with pets, Monique, as long as the instructions for their use are followed. For example, if the label indicates that a product needs to be mixed with water before application, and the cleaned area needs to dry thoroughly before allowing pet traffic back in, these instructions need to be adhered to in order to avoid the potential for problems, such as skin irritation or gastrointestinal upset, from accidental exposure.

I occasionally use a carpet deodorizing powder for pet odors when I vacuum the house. My dog isn’t in the room when I use this powder, but is it safe for homes with pets?

- Jennifer C.

Assuming that you follow label directions for the proper use of this product, we would not anticipate any problems for your pet, Jennifer. Should your dog accidentally come in contact with the freshly applied powder, we recommend washing her paws with mild soap and water to avoid minor skin irritation. This also reduces the chance that she might ingest the powder from her paws.

Minor ingestions of carpet freshener powder mainly involve mild stomach upset. If a small amount is inhaled, minor respiratory irritation may occur, resulting in sneezing, coughing, or a runny nose. Because of this, it is a good idea to continue to keep your dog out of the room until after you have vacuumed up the powder.

A vet once warned me that Febreze is not safe to use in the home if you have pets. However, I know many people who do use it. What is the answer to this controversy? I have a 9-year-old cat and do not use Febreze.

- Taylor B.

Good question, Taylor. Contrary to rumors circulating on the Internet alleging that Febreze causes serious illness or death in pets, our veterinary toxicology experts at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center regard Febreze fabric freshener products to be safe for use in households with pets.

As with any product, it is important that you always follow label instructions for use. However, should your cat accidentally come into contact with Febreze when it is still wet, we would not anticipate problems beyond mild skin irritation (which can occur with any product in animals with sensitive skin) or minor stomach upset, if it is ingested.

Community Outreach

Community Outreach focuses on providing positive outcomes for animals at risk, and includes our own shelter services in New York City. Community Outreach team members include seasoned animal welfare professionals, veterinarians, animal behaviorists, dog trainers, animal care technicians, adoption specialists and humane educators. The programs under the Community Outreach umbrella are:

The ASPCA Equine Fund assists equine rescues and sanctuaries with capital improvements and education programs. Additional emergency grants are dispensed to humane organizations that take on large-scale equine cruelty cases and to rescue groups impacted by natural disasters. Recently, the Emergency Hay Support program was established to help equine organizations feed the horses in their care. In 2008, the ASPCA distributed nearly $500,000 to organizations caring for equines throughout the United States.

Learn More »

A key component of the ASPCA’s work to save more lives is granting essential funds to animal welfare organizations across the country. The ASPCA is the second-largest animal welfare grant-maker in the United States, providing support to U.S.-based nonprofit animal welfare organizations through cash grants, sponsorships, executive and technical assistance, and training. The ASPCA awards grants for spay/neuter, adoption, sheltering, relocation, anti-cruelty, equine-specific, disaster-preparedness, disaster-response and other initiatives that make the U.S. a better place for animals.

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Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Response are the two branches of the ASPCA's Disaster Readiness division. The Disaster Preparedness team works to educate the public about available resources and to prepare people to manage the needs of their pets in the event of an emergency or disaster. It also works with animal shelters and communities to promote and develop preparedness plans for companion animals.

The Disaster Response team is a trained, 12-person core group that can deploy to any part of the country when requested by a governmental authority or animal welfare agency in crisis. The team's equipment includes two 20-plus foot trailers, both stocked with animal rescue equipment, computers, radios, veterinary supplies and kennels.

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In conjunction with the Delta Society, the ASPCA facilitates an Animal-Assisted Therapy program that trains dogs and cats—and their human handlers—to bring love, hope and cheer to patients in New York City medical and mental health facilities as well as to schools.

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ASPCApro.org is a website that provides tools and resources for animal welfare professionals nationwide, including public and private animal protection organizations, veterinarians, law enforcement agencies, emergency responders, and education and public health officials. Through ASPCApro.org, the combined information and knowledge from our experts, along with profiles and materials from proven programs, are provided for animal welfare professionals to share and learn.

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The flagship program of Community Outreach is the ASPCA®'s Meet Your MatchTM (MYM). Meet Your Match is the only research-based adoption system that matches adopters' preferences with the specific behaviors of individual shelter dogs and cats. The family of MYM programs includes MYM SAFERTM, MYM Canine-ality/Puppy-alityTM and MYM Feline-alityTM. Shelters implementing the MYM programs experience reduced return-to-shelter rates, increased adopter satisfaction, increased adoptions by as much as 40 percent and reduced euthanasia by as much as 46 percent.

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In 2007, the ASPCA entered into three-year partnerships with animal welfare and community organizations in specific "target communities" around the country to launch ASPCA Partnership, an ambitious project dedicated to providing positive outcomes for animals at risk. By providing our funding, resources and expertise, and fostering cooperation between shelters, community groups and animal welfare agencies in these target communities, the ASPCA is helping to improve live release rates, prevent animal cruelty and create model humane communities.

As of December 2008, ASPCA partner communities are: Austin, TX; Charleston, SC; Gulfport-Biloxi, MS; Philadelphia, PA; Spokane, WA and Tampa, FL.

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An extension of the Adoption Program, the ASPCA's Mobile Adoption Center travels throughout NYC's five boroughs to match adoptable pets with potential owners.

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Thousands of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are adopted out each year from the ASPCA's Onyx and Breezy Shefts Adoption Center, named in memory of two Labrador retrievers owned by Mark and Wanda Shefts. One of the hallmarks of our New York City headquarters, the 12,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art adoption center was renovated and expanded in 2006. It is now capable of housing more than 300 cats and dogs in accommodations designed for their "creature comfort." Through the ASPCA's adoption services, 3,267 dogs and cats found new homes in 2008, a 20-percent increase over 2007.

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Cruelty

I've seen a website depicting cruelty to animals. What can I do?

The ASPCA shares your concern about Internet animal cruelty. While Internet technology has made a positive contribution to our society, it has also resulted in the rapid expansion of publicity for individuals who promote inappropriate ideas including, animal abuse. Click here for general information on how to fight against this and other disturbing websites you may encounter (including Bonsai Kitten).

To report websites that display acts of cruelty to animals, please contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice.

I’d like to make a complaint about a veterinarian. Who should I contact?

The ASPCA suggests the following options when you suspect your veterinarian of improper conduct, negligence or malpractice:

  • If the matter is a financial issue, contact your state Better Business Bureau or Department of Consumer Affairs.
  • If the matter is an operational or medical issue, contact your local veterinary medical association’s Ethics and Grievance Committee.
  • If the matter is a malpractice issue, contact your state’s veterinary licensing board. This is the agency that investigates allegations of misconduct. Another option is to file a lawsuit against the veterinarian in question.

You can call or write any vet clinic in your state to find contact information for the medical association and/or licensing board in your area. In addition, you can contact:

The American Association of Veterinary State Boards
(816) 931-1504

American Veterinary Medical Association
(800) 248-AVMA

I saw a television show/film/advertisement that depicts cruelty to animals. What can I do about it?

The ASPCA shares your concern about the media's depiction of violence and cruelty towards animals for the purpose of entertainment.

Please know, however, that many of these instances are constitutionally protected free speech; many may not involve a real animal. If you are offended by something you viewed, we suggest that you contact the network that aired the program, the producer of the film or the publisher of the print media in question.

You may also wish to contact the following organizations to register your complaint:

The American Humane Association, Movie and Television Unit
(818) 501-0123
This unit oversees the use of live animals in movies and television as part of an agreement with the Screen Directors Guild.

The HSUS Hollywood Office
(818) 501-2275
contact@hsushollywood.org

This branch of HSUS works with the media to advance the humane treatment of animals.

Thank you for being an animal welfare advocate.

How can I report cruelty to animals?

In NYC
To report cruelty situations involving animals in New York City, please call 311. For crimes in progress, contact 911.

Animal cruelty/neglect is not only wrong-it is against the law in every state in this country, and is a FELONY in many states! Animal abuse can also be part of a pattern of other violent acts within families and society. Abuse of any kind should be reported to the appropriate authorities immediately.

Outside NYC
You will need to find out the name of the persons in your area who are responsible for investigating and enforcing the anti-cruelty codes in your town, county and/or state. These people typically work for your local humane organization, animal control agency, taxpayer-funded animal shelter or police precinct.

To find out what agencies are authorized to investigate and arrest instances of animal cruelty in your state (i.e, does the enforcement of animal cruelty laws fall under the authority of the police department or animal control officers?), visit our state-by-state list of state anti-cruelty investigatory-arrest powers.

If you run into trouble finding the correct agency to contact, you may wish to call or visit your local police department and ask for their help in enforcing the law. Similarly, you can ask at your local shelter or animal control agency for help. To find contact information for your local shelter, check the yellow pages or visit the ASPCA's searchable database of nearly 5,000 community SPCAs, humane societies and animal control organizations.

Learn more about Reporting Animal Cruelty...

Know your state animal welfare laws.

Here are some websites on cruelty:

For a listing of animal cruelty laws by state, please click here.

For issues pertaining to animals and the law, please log onto:

I’d like to make a complaint about the conditions/treatment of animals in a pet store. What should I do?

In New York City
New York State is in the beginning stages of the pet dealer licensing and inspection process. In the meantime, if you suspect criminal acts of animal cruelty taking place, such as intentionally harming an animal or depriving an animal of food, water or medical care, please call 311. For other pet store complaints, please call the Department of Health at (212) 676-2115.

Outside of New York City
We urge those who do not live in New York to contact any or all of the following organizations:

  • Your local SPCA or humane society, which may have the power to investigate such matters in your area. For a listing of animal agencies in your area, visit ASPCA.org.
  • your local Health Department/Board of Health, as the abuse of animals in pet stores and breeder facilities often involves unsafe or unsanitary conditions for humans
  • your local Better Business Bureau
  • local law enforcement officials
  • local media organizations
  • local politicians
  • the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees wholesale breeders of dogs and cats. It is best to contact this agency by mail.

Headquarters:
USDA/APHIS/AC
4700 River Rd., Unit 84
Riverdale, MD 20737
(301) 734-7833
ace@aphis.usda.gov

Western Regional Offices:
USDA/APHIS/AC
PO Box 915004
Fort Worth, TX 76115
(817) 885-6923
acwest@aphis.usda.gov

USDA/APHIS/AC
9580 Micron Ave., Ste. J
Sacramento, CA 95827
(916) 857-6205
acwest@aphis.usda.gov

USDA/APHIS/AC
2150 Centre Ave.
Building B, Mailstop 3W11
Fort Collins, CO 80526
acwest@aphis.usda.gov

Eastern Regional Office:
USDA/APHIS/AC
920 Main Campus Dr., Ste. 200, Unit 3040
Raleigh, NC 27606
(919) 716-5532
aceast@aphis.usda.gov

What groups work to end cruelty in other countries?

You may wish to contact the following organizations for overseas and international assistance:

International Fund for Animals (IFAW)
(800) 932-IFAW
http://www.ifaw.org/

World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)
(800) 883-9772
http://www.wspa-usa.org/

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
(800) CALL-WWF
http://www.worldwildlife.org/

How can I help get animal-friendly legislation passed in my state?

Take an active role in improving the lives of animals. Help get legislation passed by joining the ASPCA's Advocacy Brigade. As a member of our Advocacy Brigade, you will receive regular updates informing you of the introduction and status of various bills pending in your state legislature and Congress, and what you can do. With our complimentary interactive letter-writing technology, which allows you to send letters to your representatives in a moment's notice, it's easy to take part and let your voice be heard. Active involvement by concerned individuals like you is extremely important in the successful passage of legislation to better protect animals.

Dog Fighting FAQ

No, the ASPCA Animal Hospital rarely, if ever, sees dogs who have incurred injuries as a result of dog fighting. This does not mean that dog fighting does not occur in New York. It is possible that such dogs are less likely to be brought to the ASPCA for treatment. Their owners might avoid the ASPCA because they know that the organization is sensitive to signs of animal cruelty and might place them under investigation.

In general, fighting dogs are less likely to have access to veterinary professionals for treatment of their injuries. Veterinarians should be watchful for some of the typical injuries in fighting dogs, including unprofessionally cropped tails and ears, multiple bite wounds, heavy scarring, missing and torn ears and lips, and previously broken limbs that healed improperly. Several states (including Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and West Virginia) specifically require veterinarians to report suspicions of dog fighting when confronted with animals with such injuries.

In general, dog fighting is difficult to detect. Paraphernalia associated with dog fighting such as treadmills, break sticks, steroids, pain-numbing drugs, syringes and weapons, large amounts of cash or other evidence of gambling is occasionally discovered, but not often enough to consider the blood sport prevalent in New York City.

The enforcement of animal cruelty laws begins with the individual. If you see something, please say something—notify your local police and/or humane law enforcement of any suspicious activities that suggest dog fighting is taking place in your community.

The first step in combating dog fighting is for individuals to alert the authorities to any suspected or actual dog fighting activities in their area—identification of the problem is the first step to a solution.

In addition, the ASPCA recommends the formation of local or state task forces to address dog fighting. These groups should include members from all the major stakeholders in that community—law enforcement, prosecutors, animal control, animal welfare groups, veterinarians, public health officials, housing authorities, the neighborhood watch and others. The group should identify the nature of the problems in the area, the laws that could be applied to these problems, and the resources that are available. Dog fighting is most effectively addressed by a collaborative approach to this heinous crime.

Dog fighting is a violent and highly secretive enterprise that is extremely difficult for law enforcement and investigative professionals to infiltrate. A dog fight investigation requires many of the same skills and resources as a major undercover narcotics investigation, and challenges the resources of any agency that seeks to respond to it.

An additional complication is that the evidence likely to be seized in a raid includes the dogs—living creatures who must be taken care of and maintained while the judicial process unfolds. Most prosecutors would be happy to take on every dog fight case they could, but they are limited by the human and animal care resources available to them.

Dogs from professional fighters have been bred and trained to inflict injuries on other dogs, so they can be difficult to house and care for safely. They are usually very friendly to people—they've been bred for this trait so that they can be easily handled during fights—but, unfortunately, these dogs can be extremely dangerous to other dogs. That is why the ASPCA recommends that all dogs seized from fighting raids be assessed by professional behaviorists.

Each dog should undergo a standardized evaluation that is designed to gauge the dog's reaction to a range of experiences common to most companion dogs, including being handled by a stranger, playing with people and toys, having a bowl of food and a chew bone taken away, meeting a doll that looks and sounds like a child and meeting other dogs. In some cases, dogs that demonstrate mild to moderate levels of aggression or fear may be candidates for rehabilitation if such resources are available. Concerns about liability, public safety and the animal's well-being mean that dogs exhibiting extreme fear or severe aggression toward people or other dogs are not adoptable and often have to be euthanized.

All dogs from fighting raids that are placed in foster or adoptive homes must be carefully monitored over the long term because we still don't know how likely these dogs are to develop aggressive behavior in the future.

Confiscated fighting dogs are also at high risk of being stolen from shelters, foster care or other placements and returned to the fight trade. Therefore, it is especially important for shelters to put solid security measures in place while housing fighting dogs, to spay and neuter dogs who are adopted out, and to educate foster groups and adopters about why it is best not to disclose the identity of these dogs to their friends and acquaintances.

As of 2008, dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In most states, the possession of dogs for the purpose of fighting is also a felony offense. Being a spectator at a dog fight is illegal in all states. See a chart of state dog fighting laws and their penalties, which vary widely.

On the federal side, the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 prohibits certain animal fighting-related activities when they have involved more than one state or interstate mail services, including the U.S. Postal Service. In 2007, Congress passed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act with strong bipartisan support. The Act amended the Animal Welfare Act and provides felony penalties for interstate commerce, import and export relating to commerce in fighting dogs, fighting cocks and cockfighting paraphernalia. Each violation can result in up to three years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

In 2014 the crucial elements of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act were signed into law as part of the Farm Bill. This provision makes attending an animal fight anywhere in the U.S. a federal offense, and imposes additional penalties for bringing a child under 16 to an animal fight.

Unless they have had a good history of past performance or come from valuable bloodlines, losing dogs are often discarded, killed or simply left with their injuries untreated. If the losing dog is perceived to be a particular embarrassment to the reputation or status of its owner, it may be executed in a particularly brutal fashion as part of the "entertainment."

Fights can last just a few minutes or several hours. Both animals may suffer injuries, including puncture wounds, lacerations, blood loss, crushing injuries and broken bones. Although fights are not usually to the death, many dogs succumb to their injuries later.

As noted above, fights can take place in a variety of locations and at any time. They may be impromptu events in a back alley, or carefully planned and staged enterprises in a location specially designed and maintained for the purpose. Usually the fight takes place in a pit that is between 14 and 20 feet square, with sides that may be plywood, hay bales, chain link or anything else that can contain the animals. The flooring may be dirt, wood, carpet or sawdust. The pit has "scratch lines" marked in opposite corners, where the dogs will face each other from 12 to 14 feet apart.

In a more organized fight, the dogs will be weighed to make sure they are approximately the same weight. Handlers will often wash and examine the opponent's dog to remove any toxic substances that may have been placed on the fur in an attempt to deter or harm the opposing dog. At the start of the fight, the dogs are released from their corners and usually meet in the middle, wrestling to get a hold on the opponent. If they do, the dogs grab and shake to inflict maximal damage. Handlers are not permitted to touch the dogs except when told to do so by the referee. This can happen if dogs when, as described below, one dog "turns."

If a dog turns away from his opponent without renewing his attack, the referee may call a "turn" and require that the dogs be returned to their corners. The handlers collect their dogs and tend to them briefly before returning to the scratch lines. The dog who turned is released first. If the dog who committed the "turn" fails to cross the pit and engage his opponent, the match is over and the other dog is the winner. A draw may occur if both dogs fail to "scratch" several times in succession, i.e. repeatedly fail to cross the scratch lines and re-engage in the fight. This is an unusual and often unpopular end for the dogs involved.

Fighting dogs used by all types of fighters may have their ears cropped and tails docked close to their bodies. This serves two purposes. First, it limits the areas of the body that another dog can grab onto in a fight, and second, it makes it more difficult for other dogs to read the animal's mood and intentions through the normal body language cues dogs use in aggressive encounters.

Fighters usually perform this cropping/docking themselves using crude and inhumane techniques. This can lead to additional criminal charges related to animal cruelty and/or the illegal practice of veterinary medicine.

Fighting dogs must be kept isolated from other dogs, so they spend most of their lives on short, heavy chains, often just out of reach of other dogs. They are usually unsocialized to any other dogs and to most people. However, many professional fighters invest much time and money in conditioning their animals. They are often given quality nutrition and basic veterinary care. The dogs are exercised under controlled conditions, such as on a treadmill or "jenny."

The conditioning of fighting dogs may also make use of a variety of legal and illegal drugs, including anabolic steroids to enhance muscle mass and encourage aggressiveness. Narcotic drugs may also be used to increase the dogs' aggression, increase reactivity and mask pain or fear during a fight. Young animals are often trained or tested by allowing them to fight with other dogs in well-controlled "rolls." Those who show little inclination to fight may be discarded or killed. Some fighters will use stolen pets as "bait dogs," or sparring partners.

There are many other common techniques used in the training and testing of dogs, but these methods vary widely among different fighters and may range from systematic to haphazard. "Street" fighters usually make little investment in conditioning or training their animals. Instead, they rely on cruel methods to encourage their dogs to fight, including starvation, physical abuse, isolation and the use of stimulants or other drugs that excite the dogs.

For professional and hobbyist dogfighters, the sale of pups from parents who have won several fights is a major part of their activity. Underground dog fighting publications and websites are commonly used to advertise pups or the availability of breeding stock. Many "street" fighters think they can also make money by breeding and selling dogs, but a great number of these animals are killed or abandoned if they fail to perform.

No. Much like herding dogs, trailing dogs and other breeds selected for particular roles, fighting dogs are born ready for the training that will prepare them to succeed in the pit, and are bred to have a high degree of dog aggression.

Though bred for fighting other dogs—or perhaps because of that—the American Pit Bull terrier has long been a popular family pet, noted for his strength, intelligence and devotion.

It's important to remember any dog can behave aggressively, depending on the context, his genetic background, and his upbringing and environment. When a dog is treated well, properly trained and thoroughly socialized during puppyhood and matched with the right kind of owner and household, he's likely to develop into a well-behaved companion and cherished member of the family. However, some Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes may be more inclined to develop aggression toward other dogs

Although there are many breeds of dogs used for fighting worldwide, including the Fila Brasileiro, Dogo Argentino, the Tosa Inu and the Presa Canario, the dog of choice for fighting in America is the American Pit Bull Terrier. Occasionally other breeds and mixes are reportedly used in street fights or as "bait" dogs used by some to train fighting dogs.

In the early days of dog fighting in England, the Old English Bulldog and the Bull and Terrier Dog, both now extinct, were the breeds of choice for this brutal blood sport. These breeds were replaced in the early twentieth century by the American Pit Bull Terrier—the Americanized version of the bull-baiting dogs from England.

There are many reasons people are attracted to dog fighting. The most basic is greed. Major dog fight raids have resulted in seizures of more than $500,000, and it is not unusual for $20,000 - $30,000 to change hands in a single fight. Stud fees and the sale of pups from promising bloodlines can also bring in thousands of dollars.

For others, the attraction lies in using the animals as an extension of themselves to fight their battles for them and demonstrate their strength and prowess. However, when a dog loses, this can cause the owner of the dog to lose not only money, but status, and may lead to brutal actions against the dog.

For others, the appeal simply seems to come from the sadistic enjoyment of a brutal spectacle.

Many of the practices associated with the raising and training of fighting dogs can be prosecuted separately as animal abuse or neglect. In addition, dog fighting, by its very nature, involves illegal gambling. Dogfighters often face additional charges related to drug, alcohol and weapons violations as well as probation violations. Arguments over dog fights have also resulted in incidents that have led to charges of assault and even homicide. Other charges might include conspiracy, corruption of minors, money laundering, etc.

Just as dog fighting cuts across many regions of the country, participants and spectators at dog fights are a diverse group. While some might typify dog fighting as a symptom of urban decay, not every dogfighter is economically disadvantaged. There are people who promote or participate in dog fighting from every community and background. Audiences contain lawyers, judges and teachers and other upstanding community leaders drawn in by the excitement and thrill of the fight.

No. Dog fighting has been reported in urban, suburban and rural settings in all regions of the country.

Fighters were traditionally attracted to states with weaker penalties for dog fighting and animal cruelty, many in the South—but laws continue to be made stronger throughout the country. As a result, this activity is no longer limited to any single area, but it is more likely to thrive wherever enforcement of anti-fighting laws is weak.

As with any other illegal underground activity, it is impossible to determine how many people may be involved in dog fighting. Estimates based on fight reports in underground dog fighting publications, and on animals entering shelters bearing evidence of fighting, suggest that the number of people involved in dog fighting in the U.S. is in the tens of thousands.

While organized dog fighting activity seemed to decline in the 1990s, many law enforcement and animal control officials feel that it has rebounded in recent years. Street fighting has reportedly continued to grow as a significant component of urban crime. The Internet has also made it easier for dogfighters to rapidly exchange information about animals and fights.

Most law enforcement experts divide dog fight activity into three categories: street fighting, hobbyist fighting and professional activity:

  • "Street" fighters engage in dog fights that are informal street corner, back alley and playground activities. Stripped of the rules and formality of the traditional pit fight, these are spontaneous events triggered by insults, turf invasions or the simple taunt, "My dog can kill yours." Many people who participate in these fights lack even a semblance of respect for the animals, often starving and beating them to encourage aggressive behavior. Many of the dogs are bred to be a threat not only to other dogs, but to people as well—with tragic consequences. 

    "Street" fights are often associated with gang activities. The fights may be conducted with money, drugs or bragging rights as the primary payoff. There is often no attempt to care for animals injured in the fight and police or animal control officers frequently encounter dead or dying animals in the aftermath of such fights. This activity is very difficult to respond to unless it is reported immediately. Professional fighters and hobbyists decry the techniques and results of these newcomers to the blood sport. 
     
  • "Hobbyist" fighters are more organized, with one or more dogs participating in several organized fights a year as a sideline for both entertainment and to attempt to supplement income. They pay more attention to care and breeding of their dogs and are more likely to travel across state lines for events. 
     
  • "Professional" dogfighters often have large numbers of animals (as many as 50 or more) and earn money from breeding, selling and fighting dogs at a central location and on the road. They often pay particular attention to promoting established winning bloodlines and to long-term conditioning of animals. They regularly dispose of animals that are not successful fighters or breeders using a variety of methods, including shooting and blunt force trauma. Unlike professional dogfighters of the past, both professionals and hobbyists of today may dispose of dogs that are too human-aggressive for the pit by selling them to "street" fighters or others who are simply looking for an aggressive dog—thus contributing to the dog bite problem.

In recent years, a fourth category of dogfighters seems to have emerged, with some wealthier individuals from the sports and entertainment worlds allegedly using their financial resources to promote professional dog fighting enterprises, which essentially use the philosophy and training techniques usually associated with street fighting.

Today, the ASPCA incorporates information on blood "sports" in the animal cruelty trainings it provides in New York's police academies as well as in police officer trainings around the country.

It also provides training on a national level to animal control officers and veterinarians on how to identify the signs of animal cruelty, as well as in crime scene investigation (CSI).

In addition, the ASPCA regularly provides training and assistance to prosecutors on how to build an effective case against those charged with these crimes, and its experts often serve as witnesses in such cases. Several ASPCA employees have published educational and reference books on animal cruelty investigation and prosecution that are used widely throughout the country.

Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA, was particularly repulsed by the brutality of the dog fighting he saw in New York and elsewhere. His 1867 revision of the state's animal cruelty law made all forms of animal fighting illegal for the first time, including bull, bear, dog and cockfighting. The involvement of regular police in dog fighting activities was one of the reasons Bergh sought and received authority for the ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Agents to have arrest powers in New York.

Many of the dogs were brought over from England and Ireland, where dog fighting had begun to flourish after bull-baiting and bear-baiting became illegal in the 1830s.

Although there are historical accounts of dog fights going back to the 1750s, widespread activity emerged after the Civil War, with professional pits proliferating in the 1860s, mainly in the Northeast.

Ironically, it was a common form of entertainment for police officers and firemen—the "Police Gazette" served as a major source of information on dog fighting for many years. Although many laws were passed to outlaw the activity, dog fighting continued to expand during the twentieth century.

Donating to the ASPCA

I am interested in making a donation to the ASPCA in honor of my wedding guests in lieu of favors.

Thank you so much for your inquiry. We have special place cards that indicate that a donation has been made in honor of guests in lieu of favors. If you wish, a sample card can be emailed to you for review. To receive place cards, you can donate online at www.aspca.org/wedding. You can also call (212) 876-7700, ext. 4516 to make your credit card donation over the phone and your cards will be shipped. For more information, you can email Linda Tiramani at lindat@aspca.org.

I have already renewed my membership, but continue to receive renewal notices.

This is the result of a timing issue between the date your renewal gift is received and keyed onto our member database and the date of our next renewal mailing. If you have renewed, please disregard any additional notices that you may have received—and thank you for your support.

How do I make an in-honor, in-memory gift for someone?

There are three ways to make a tribute donation:

Website: If you’d like to make a donation online and inform the individual via email, you may send them an eHonor or eMemorial notification. This is a very simple process, and the fastest way for your message to be sent.

Mail: If you’d like to send a check, please enclose a note indicating the name of the deceased or honoree, the name and the address of the person you wish us to contact concerning the donation, and who it is from. We will send out a tribute card to the person you’ve indicated. Please send your check to: ASPCA Tributes, 520 8th Ave., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10018.

Phone: We also accept credit card donations over the phone. Please call 800-628-0028.

Just want to make life as a Guardian a little bit easier, so we've put together some of the more commonly asked questions! Of course, if you have a question not covered here, please feel free to contact: (800) 628-0028. Please be sure to have your membership ID number handy for fastest service.

Q: How can I make changes to my account i.e. change amount, change my credit card number?
A: It's so easy! Please just call (800) 628-0028. If we receive your change prior to the month's processing deadline we can make the change effective for that month. If not, it'll take effect the next month.

Q: I currently send you a check every month...How do I go about having automatic deductions from my checking account?
A: Just fill out the EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) section on the back of your Guardian statement and return it with your pledge. Be sure to check off the change of payment type box on the front of your statement too before sending in back in the envelope provided.

Q: I'm a check writer and my statement shows two open months - the current and the last. I never miss a month and therefore find this very upsetting. What is happening?
A: The current one is always open due to it being the reminder. If your previous check was deposited after the 21st, then it missed the statement printing deadline and will appear on the next statement. It really just boils down to timing and is not a reflection of your commitment, or our bookkeeping.

Q: Can I stop whenever I want?
A: Of course! Just call (800) 628-0028. Your cancellation will take place the same month, or the following month, depending upon when we receive your call.

Q: I've been a Guardian for several months, but have not received any letters verifying my donations for tax purposes. Will I be receiving one?
A: Yes, Guardian participants receive one statement reflecting the prior year's total contributions (Please note that this statement will not contain donations made to our regular or other restricted funds). This statement is usually mailed in February.

Q: I love being a Guardian, but I want my money to go to a specific fund. How do I go about that?
A: Unfortunately, we cannot allocate your money to another restricted fund. Part of being a Guardian is that you are helping the ASPCA in all its' many programs and efforts.

Q: I signed up to be a credit card Guardian, but I'm still receiving a monthly statement and no charges have appeared on my credit card. What's up?
A: Guardian transactions take place but once per month. Therefore, depending on when your request was received/processed, it can take up to a month and a half for you to see a charge appear on your card and for the statements to stop. If it's longer than that, the please bring it to our attention so we can look into the situation for you.

Q: I'm a Guardian, but I am receiving renewal notices. Aren't I considered a member?
A: You may have a duplicate record on our database or you may have joined the Guardian program after the renewal mailing was prepared. If you receive more than one renewal notice please call us at (800) 628-0028 and we will look into this for you.

How do I know I am donating to the ASPCA?

All ASPCA donation pages use EV SSL certification, which is indicated by the VeriSign Trusted logo. EV SSL certification is the highest level of authentication currently available and ensures that any information provided is safe and secure. In addition, all ASPCA donation pages redirect to a secure https: web address that contains ASPCA.org in the URL. If any of those items are missing, no donation through the site should be made.

If you suspect an email or website may be fraudulent, please contact the ASPCA directly at legal@aspca.org to verify if we are aware of the situation, have authorized the use of our name, and do in fact receive support from them. Report any incidents of consumer fraud or deception directly to the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov/charityfraud or call (877) FTC-HELP. If you believe an organization or website may not be operating for its claimed charitable purpose, contact your state Attorney General or the Better Business Bureau at http://www.bbb.org/.

What Is Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) Or Tax Identification Number (TIN)?

13-1623829

I do not have a checking account. May I send a money order?

Of course!! Please make your money order out to the ASPCA and send it to:
ASPCA Gift Processing Center, PO Box 96929, Washington, DC 20077-7127.

I do not have a credit card. May I send a check?

Yes, you may. Please make your check out to the ASPCA and send it to:
ASPCA Gift Processing Center, PO Box 96929, Washington, DC 20077-7127.

I recently made a donation, but my credit card was charged more than once. What should I do?

Thank you very much for your donation—and we are so sorry for any inconvenience that you may be having. First, you’ll need to determine if the extra charge on your online credit card statement is a pending charge. A pending charge usually means that you submitted incomplete or inaccurate information when you made your donation. Even if you received an error message, your credit card company will still place a pending line item on your online statement. If you have determined that the extra charge is a pending charge, it will be cancelled by your bank in a few days. If it is not a pending charge, and has not been cancelled after a few days, please contact membership@aspca.org.

How much does it cost to become a member, and what does membership entitle me to?

There are three levels of ASPCA membership:

Regular Membership—$25 annually. Membership is from January to December. We begin sending out renewal notices in January of each year. With regular membership, you are entitled to our full-color newsletter, ASPCA Action. The publication will keep you updated on all ASPCA events and programs. To join today, please click here.

Monthly Membership—ASPCA Guardian Program for monthly gifts of $10 or more. As a Guardian member, you are entitled to our member newsletter, ASPCA Action, as well as a special quarterly Guardian Newsletter, and access to a special Guardians-only website. To enroll today, please click here. As Guardian memberships are continuous, there is no need to renew your support each year.

Founder’s Society—Annual gifts of $500 or more. Founder’s Society Membership runs from January to December. As a Founder’s Society member, you are entitled to our member newsletter, ASPCA Action, as well as a listing in our Annual Report. To join today, please click here.

A friend of mine received your adorable labels and I would like to get some, too.

We’re very happy you enjoy the labels, but unfortunately, individual orders cannot be taken. Those particular labels are mass-produced for membership solicitations. However, we do offer an equally-adorable alternative—and if you are interested in ordering, please click here.

Especially for Dog Parents

Don't give up on your pet and give your pet up! At the ASPCA, we work hard to protect, preserve and even improve the human-pet relationship. For solutions to common behavior problems, please visit our online Animal Behavior Center.

In New York City, dogs must be on a leash when in public places. The leash cannot be longer than six feet. Failure to comply with the leash law can result in a ticket from authorized employees of New York City’s Departments of Health, Sanitation, or Parks and Recreation. Please call 311 to report an unleashed dog.

In December 2006, the New York City Board of Health approved legislation to formally allow supervised dogs to play unleashed in certain city parks between 9:00 P.M. and 9:00 A.M. Please visit the NYC Parks Department to view a list of parks, by borough, that participate in this program. This site also offers loads of valuable information for New York City dog owners, such as a listing of dog runs and when and where you can take your dog to the beach!

In New York City (and many other areas in the country), licensing your dog is the law. To apply for a dog license, visit the website of the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) or call 311 to reach the DOHMH’s Dog Licensing Unit. You may also obtain an application from a veterinarian, animal shelter or pet shop.

Please note, you can’t get your dog a license unless you have the paperwork to prove that he or she has received a rabies vaccine, so make sure you save all your pet’s veterinary records. The New York City Health Code requires every dog owner/walker to be able to produce proof of current dog license and rabies vaccination while in public—the easiest way to do this is to affix to your dog’s collar the vaccination tag from your vet and the city license tag you’ll receive in the mail from the DOHMH. Violation of these laws may result in fines.

Flowers/Plants

Thanks for thinking of the animals! Sending a bouquet is a wonderful idea, but it's wise to consider that certain flowers are downright dangerous to our animal companions. Many varieties of lilies are highly poisonous to cats, for example, and while rose flowers may be fine, their thorns could prove injurious. In order to ensure that you send flowers that won't harm pets, we've worked with our experts at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center recommend pet-friendly selections such as dendrobium orchids, violets and gerbera daisies.

P.S. Please note that while the flowers shown are considered to be nontoxic, it's important to keep in mind that even "safe" plants can produce minor stomach upset if ingested.

Please visit our toxic and nontoxic plant pages for information on which plants are safe and which ones to avoid.

Being familiar with the plants in and around your home is key in preventing your pet from consuming any plants that may be poisonous. A great resource for learning about which plants are toxic and which ones are not is located right on www.aspca.org/apcc. Please note, if you think your pet has been exposed to a potentially toxic plant, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 888-426-4435.

The following is a list of the 17 most common poisonous plants. For details on each plant, follow this link.

  1. Lilies
  2. Marijuana
  3. Sago Palm
  4. Tulip/Narcissus bulbs
  5. Azalea/Rhododendron
  6. Oleander
  7. Castor Bean
  8. Cyclamen
  9. Kalanchoe
  10. Yew
  11. Amaryllis
  12. Autumn Crocus
  13. Chrysanthemum
  14. English Ivy
  15. Peace Lily (AKA Mauna Loa Peace Lily)
  16. Pothos
  17. Schefflera

Click here for a full list of toxic plants.

Food/Drugs

Unfortunately, yes. While most human medications are contained in child-proof bottles, these containers are not pet-proof. Pets can easily chew and break open packaging, so medications should always be stored in a secure cabinet above the countertop.

We strongly advise owners to never give their pets any medication without first consulting with their regular veterinarian. Many drugs, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like aspirin, can cause serious or potentially life-threatening problems, depending on the dose involved.

If you feel that your pet needs pain relief for any reason, we highly recommend that you get in touch with your veterinarian—if you have not already. Your vet can direct you regarding the best dose to use or, if necessary, can prescribe a different pain reliever.

In a word, NO! Ibuprofen can definitely be toxic to dogs and other pets—even in small amounts. Depending on the dose ingested, significant gastrointestinal damage or even kidney damage could result.

In fact, many drugs that are beneficial to humans can be harmful or even deadly for pets. We strongly urge you to never give your pet any medication without first speaking with his or her regular veterinarian.

It's not a good idea to feed your dog any sort of breath freshener that hasn't been formulated specifically for pets. Some breath-freshening products contain the sweetener xylitol, which has the potential to cause a sharp drop in a dog's blood sugar. This can result in depression, loss of coordination and seizures, and in some cases, liver damage. We also don't advise giving your dog breath freshening strips. Certain breath strips contain menthol, which can be irritating to the tissues of the mouth and the gastrointestinal tract. There are plenty of ways to solve your dog's breath problem without giving him products made for people. We recommend you discuss an appropriate oral hygiene program with your veterinarian.

The Food and Drug Administration website is an excellent resource: http://www.fda.gov

Chocolate can contain high amounts of fat and caffeine-like stimulants known as methylxanthines. If ingested in significant amounts, chocolate can potentially produce clinical effects in dogs ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death in severe cases.

Typically, the darker the chocolate, the higher the potential for clinical problems from methylxanthine poisoning. White chocolate has the lowest methylxanthine content, while baking chocolate contains the highest. As as little as 4 ounces of milk chocolate—or only 0.5 oz of baking chocolate—can cause serious problems in a 10-pound dog. While white chocolate may not have the same potential as darker forms to cause a methylxanthine poisoning, the high fat content of lighter chocolates could still lead to vomiting and diarrhea, as well as the possible development of life-threatening pancreatitis, an inflammatory condition of the pancreas.

Unless they are spoiled or moldy, milk, cheese and other dairy foods are not considered to be poisonous to pets. However, cats do not possess significant amounts of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk. Feeding milk and milk-based products to cats can actually cause them to vomit or have diarrhea, which in severe cases could lead to inflammation of the pancreas. For this reason, it's always a good idea to check with your veterinarian before offering any "people food" to your pets.

Experts at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center urge you to avoid feeding the following foods to your pet:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Avocado
- Chocolate (all forms)
- Coffee (all forms)
- Fatty foods
- Macadamia nuts
- Moldy or spoiled foods
- Onions, onion powder
- Raisins and grapes
- Salt
- Yeast dough
- Garlic
- Products sweetened with xylitol

For information on additional foods that may be potentially hazardous, please visit our People Food archives.

For New Adopters—What to Expect and What Happens Next

Although the adopter’s contract you receive states that you must return the pet to us if it doesn’t work out, you may feel you’ve found an appropriate home with a family that is well-suited to your pet. If this is the case, please contact us so that we can update our records.

We actually ask that you do return a pet with whom you’re not getting along, whether it’s after one week or ten years. Before we take him or her back, however, we’ll discuss the problem you’re having. If it’s a behavior issue, you can call our behavior hotline number, provided exclusively to ASPCA adopters to discuss possible behavior solutions. You may also consult a reputable trainer for assistance. And you can read our online behavior information for helpful tips.

Our trainers and behaviorists know the animals in our shelter and will discuss their personalities with you. Please remember, however, that it takes time for an animal to settle into a new home, and your new friend must be treated with patience and given time to adjust.

A member of our staff will contact you by phone or email within the first three weeks after adoption to make sure the settling-in process is going smoothly. This is especially helpful if the pet you’ve adopted is working through a behavior issue or has a health condition that takes extra care. Of course, our specialists will be available to provide ongoing support and guidance, and there is a wealth of training advice in our online Animal Behavior Center.

For Parents & Educators: Kids and Cruelty

In a perfect world, you would be able to intercept the abuse and speak with a receptive parent or adult guardian. In the real world, if you are lucky enough to know with whom to speak, be prepared for a dismissive reaction. Those in charge of raising the child may be unaware that treating an animal cruelly is indicative of bullying behavior and should be corrected. Because it is important to proceed with extreme tact in these situations, we recommend that you speak with a professional at your local shelter or animal rescue to find out how to broach such a conversation.

Something else to keep in mind is that children's behavior is often a natural extension of what they have learned from watching adults—or from being a victim of abuse themselves. The conduct of children quite often reflects what goes on in their homes. So you may encounter a deeply shocked, concerned parent—or you might find yourself face-to-face with the grown-up version of the disturbed child you are trying to help.

If you are a teacher and have seen one or more of your students abusing an animal, consider calling upon your school's counselor to intervene.

Whether or not you are able to speak to the child's guardian, be the animal's voice and report the abuse just as you would if the perpetrator were an adult. Avail yourself of all the agencies that may take an interest: the police, your local humane society or SPCA, children's services, etc. Make sure that those to whom you report the abuse understand that it is a public safety as well as an animal cruelty issue, since kids who hurt animals are often likely to commit violence against people later in life.

One of the most powerful tools for preventing cruelty to animals is education. Humane behavior should be taught to children early on. If you're a parent, teach your child what he or she can do to help animals and urge your local schools to integrate humane education into their curricula.

The ASPCA shares your concern about the media's depiction of violence and cruelty towards animals for entertainment purposes. Please know, however, that many of these instances are constitutionally protected free speech—and may not even involve a real animal.

If you are offended by something you viewed, we suggest that you contact the network that aired the program or the publisher of the film in question.

You may also wish to contact the American Humane Association Movie and Television Unit online or at (818) 501-0123. This unit oversees the use of live animals in movies and television as part of an agreement with the Screen Directors Guild.

Found Animals

I found a dead animal-who should I call?

If you find a dead animal, you should call your local Department of Sanitation to have the animal removed as soon as possible. A dead animal can be a health hazard to people and other animals. In New York City, the general information number of the Department of Sanitation is (212) 219-8090.

If your pet has passed away, you have several choices about how to dispose of the body. The cost will vary, depending on your decision. Contact your veterinarian or your local humane organization to find out about options. You can also look in your phone book for deceased animal removal and disposal.

I found a stray/injured/abandoned animal. Who can I call for help?

Please contact Animal Care and Control (AC&C) by calling 311 (for all five boroughs). AC&C is not affiliated with the ASPCA.

Outside NYC

Contact your local humane organization, animal control officer, or Police Department for assistance.

My pet is lost?/I think I've found someone's pet-what can I do?

For lost or found pets in New York City, please contact Animal Care and Control (AC&C) by calling 311 or search their online database.

Outside NYC

Report a lost or found animal to your local shelter or animal control facility immediately.Because animal control facilities are often overwhelmed with unclaimed and unwanted animals, time is of the essence. If you find an animal,keep in mindthat someone is most likely looking for this pet-and if you don't report it to your shelter, the owner may never be reunited with his or her animal. You may also wish to place flyers around the neighborhood or an ad in your local newspaper. If you want to keep a pet whose owner cannot be located, consult your local humane organization for advice on how to proceed.

To read more suggestions, please read our article Tips on Finding a Lost Pet.

Help, I found a hurt/orphaned squirrel/bird/rabbit/etc.!

Please know that the ASPCA does not have certified wildlife rehabilitators on staff, nor do we have wildlife experts or a wildlife department.

For answers to wildlife questions, you can visit the following websites:

Some situations involving nuisance wildlife in your home or on your property may require the professional services of a company that specializes in removing wildlife from private property. The ASPCA urges you to use reputable companies who specialize in the humane removal and/or release of captured wildlife.

Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Hoarding

If you think someone you know is struggling with animal hoarding, here are some ways you can help:

  • Pick up the phone and call your local humane law enforcement department, police department, animal shelter, animal welfare group or veterinarian to initiate the process. You may not want to get the person “in trouble,” but a phone call may be the first step to get them and the animals the help they need. “Often people don;t report hoarding situations because they are worried the hoarder will get in trouble or that the animals will get taken away,” says the ASPCA's Allison Cardona, Director of Disaster Response. “What I would like to stress is that these situations only get worse with time, and the animals always end up getting taken out of the home. It is always better to say something—this is the first step for both the animals and the people to get the help they need.” Cruelty situations involving animals in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island should be reported to the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement Department at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4450. If you live in the Bronx and need to report animal cruelty, please call 311. If you are outside NYC, read our Reporting Cruelty FAQ to find out where to report cruelty in your area.
  • Educate others about the misery involved in a hoarding situation. Animal hoarding has often been portrayed as an eccentricity—the elderly “cat lady.” The public needs to be made aware of the greater harm caused by animal hoarding.
  • Contact social service groups and ask them to get involved. Animal hoarding is not just about the animals. Your local department of the aging, adult protective services, health departments and other mental health agencies may be able to provide services or links to services. It's important to get the animal hoarder connected to the right services.
  • Reassure the animal hoarder that it's okay to accept help. Animal hoarders are usually worried that their animals will be killed or that they will never see them again. Regardless of the outcome, assure them that the animals need urgent care and that immediate action is necessary.
  • Volunteer your time. With the removal of so many animals from a hoarding situation, the burden on local shelters can be staggering. Volunteer your time to help clean cages, socialize animals, walk dogs and perform other such necessary duties.
  • Keep in touch. In many cases the animals are too unsocialized or too old and sick to be considered adoptable. However, it may be appropriate for the animals to be spayed and neutered and returned to the home if the animal hoarder can provide—or can be aided in providing—care. Under the guidance of an organization, help the individual with daily animal care chores. And if the individual acquires new animals, help ensure that they are spayed/neutered and vaccinated.
  • Support local legislation. Laws that recognize hoarding as unlawful with appropriate punishment and mandatory treatment are necessary. Even though hoarding cases exhibit typical characteristics of animal abuse, they are rarely prosecuted because they fail to show the individual's intent to harm.
Animal hoarding is covered implicitly under every state's animal cruelty statute, which typically requires caretakers to provide sufficient food, water and veterinary care. Only two states, Illinois and Hawaii, currently have statutory language specifically addressing animal hoarding. With guidance from ASPCA, the Illinois Companion Animal Hoarder Act was created in 2001 to create a legal definition for “companion animal hoarder” and mandate counseling for those convicted of animal cruelty who meet the definition. Animal hoarding itself is not prohibited by the statute. Hawaii's 2008 law is the only state law specifically outlawing animal hoarding. It does not mandate psychological counseling for convicted hoarders or restrict future animal ownership. Anti-hoarding legislation has been proposed, but not passed, in several other states. See Illinois and Hawaii's hoarding laws, as well as hoarding-related bills introduced in other states.

In most cases, criminal prosecution of animal hoarding can be a difficult process and may not be the most effective route. Such cases are difficult to successfully prosecute and, once litigation ends, the hoarder is likely to resume collecting an excessive number of animals unless closely monitored. “Hoarders are like drug addicts—you can't cure them, you can only prevent relapses,” says Lockwood.

Some say prosecution isn't the answer because hoarders are often emotionally troubled rather than criminally inclined. “Like many psychological conditions, the causes of animal hoarding are probably multiple and, therefore, assessment of emotions, behavior and thoughts must be multifaceted to point the way toward successful treatment,” says the ASPCA's Dr. LaFarge. In some cases judges can impose conditions that actually help the hoarder. They can require counseling, for instance, or prohibit the person from having animals.

What is clear is that prosecution alone rarely alters the behavior. “It is essential that key community agencies work together to prevent animal hoarders from harming the large number of animals they gain control over,” says LaFarge. “Social service agencies must collaborate with animal shelters and law enforcement to intervene to save the animals and then follow up with years of monitoring to prevent a recurrence. The general public needs to be educated to realize that the hoarder is not just a nice little old lady who 'loves too much.'”

It has been estimated that there are 900 to 2,000 new cases of animal hoarding every year in the United States, with a quarter million animals falling victim. Animals collected range from cats and dogs to reptiles, rodents, birds, exotics and even farm animals.

It's important to note that not everyone who has multiple animals is an animal hoarder. A person may have a dozen animals, and all are spayed and neutered and provided with regular veterinary care and a sanitary environment. This person would not be an animal hoarder. Even rescuers who occasionally become overwhelmed are not considered hoarders if they are actively trying to modify the situation. That said, if you think you might have too many animals to care for properly, please contact your local shelter or a veterinarian for help.

Absolutely. Research shows many hoarders are beginning to set themselves up as “rescue shelters,” complete with 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status. They may appear to be sensible people, persuasively conveying their love for animals and readiness to take those who are sick and with special needs. Furthermore, the Internet appears to be becoming a great tool for solicitation.

“When looking to place an animal, it is easy for a person to get seduced by a pretty website,” points out Lockwood. “We need to caution people to look behind the curtain before giving over an animal.”

Here are several signs that a rescue group or shelter may involve a hoarder:

  • The group is unwilling to let visitors see the location where animals are kept.
  • The group will not disclose the number of animals in its care.
  • Little effort is made to adopt animals out.
  • More animals are continually taken in, despite the poor condition of existing animals.
  • Legitimate shelters and rescue organizations are viewed as the enemy.
  • Animals may be received at a remote location (parking lot, street corner, etc.) rather than at the group's facilities.
  • They have numerous animals and may not know the total number of animals in their care.
  • Their home is deteriorated (i.e., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter).
  • There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with dried feces, urine, vomit, etc.
  • Animals are emaciated, lethargic and not well socialized.
  • Fleas and vermin are present.
  • Individual is isolated from community and appears to be in neglect himself.
  • Individual insists all animals are happy and healthy—even when there are clear signs of distress and illness.

It's not always easy. Animal hoarders range in age, and can be men or women of any race or ethnic group. Elderly people tend to be more at risk due to their own deteriorating health and isolation from community and social groups. One commonality between all hoarders is a failure to grasp the severity of their situation.

“I have worked with many animal hoarders in their homes. Their mental illness allows them to maintain an absolute denial of the filth and the suffering of the animals,” says Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, ASPCA Senior Director of Counseling Services. “They simply cannot see or smell or react to the situation as a normal person would."

It is not clearly understood why people become animal hoarders. Early research pointed toward a variant of obsessive-compulsive disorders, but new studies and theories are leading toward attachment disorders in conjunction with personality disorders, paranoia, delusional thinking, depression and other mental illnesses. Some animal hoarders began collecting after a traumatic event or loss, while others see themselves as “rescuers” who save animals from lives on the street.

“Historically, a person who collected animals was viewed as an animal lover who got in over his or her head, but the truth is that people who hoard are experiencing a total loss of insight,” says Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA Senior Vice President, Forensic Sciences and Anti-cruelty Projects. “They have no real perception of the harm they're doing to the animals."

In the majority of cases, animal hoarders appear intelligent and clearly believe they are helping their animals. They often claim that any home is better than letting that animal die. In addition, many hoarders possess the ability to garner sympathy and to deceive others into thinking their situation is under control. They often are blind to the fact that they are not caring for the animals and to the extreme suffering they are inflicting.

According to Dr. Lockwood, "Being kept by a hoarder is a slow kind of death for the animal. Actually, it can be a fate worse than death."

Animal hoarding is a complex and intricate public health and community issue. Its effects are far-reaching and encompass mental health, animal welfare and public safety concerns.

The following criteria are used to define animal hoarding:

  • More than the typical number of companion animals
  • Inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness and death
  • Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household and human occupants of the dwelling

This definition comes from the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, an independent group of academic researchers based in Massachusetts. The full definition and more info can be found at vet.tufts.edu/hoarding.

General Information

Accidents happen, so it's smart to be prepared in case of an emergency. ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center experts recommend that you invest in an emergency first-aid kit for your pet.
The kit should contain:
- Fresh bottle of hydrogen peroxide, 3 percent USP (to induce vomiting)
- Turkey baster, bulb syringe or large medicine syringe (to administer peroxide)
- Saline eye solution
- Artificial tear gel (to lubricate eyes after flushing)
- Mild grease-cutting dishwashing liquid (for bathing an animal after skin contamination)
- Forceps (to remove stingers)
- Muzzle (to protect against fear- or excitement-induced biting)
- Can of your pet's favorite wet food
- Pet carrier

Always consult a veterinarian or the APCC for directions on how and when to use any emergency first-aid item. We also suggest that you keep the telephone number of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center—(888) 426-4435—as well as that of your local veterinarian in a prominent location.

Please also visit Veterinary Education Online, a web-based continuing education program specifically developed for busy veterinarians looking to enhance their knowledge and increase their clinical skills.

Each year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center manages more than 180,000 cases. The following common household goods and products are involved in more calls than any other items:

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs, both of the human and pet variety, including painkillers, cold and flu preparations and antidepressants. The ASPCA cautions pet owners to never give their four-legged family members any type of medication without first talking with a veterinarian. All drugs should be kept out of reach, preferably in closed cabinets above countertops.

Insecticides and insect control products such as flea and tick preparations and insect baits. Some species of animals can be particularly sensitive to certain types of insecticides, so it is vital that you follow label instructions exactly and never use any product not specifically formulated for your pet.

Common household plants such as lilies, azaleas and kalanchoe. Rhododendron, sago palm and schefflera can also be harmful to pets.

Chemical bait products designed for mice, rats and other rodents. When using any rodenticide, place the product in areas that are completely inaccessible to companion animals.

Common household cleaners such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants. Gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the skin, eyes or respiratory tract may be possible if a curious animal has an inappropriate encounter with such products.

General Information about the ASPCA Adoption Center and Our Services

Please check with your landlord, leasing company or co-op to see if pets are permitted in your building. Many apartments allow pets with an extra deposit.

No. If you’re interested in adopting a pet of another species, please visit Animal Care and Control of New York City at 326 East 110th Street. AC&C can be reached by calling 311. You may also wish to visit other animal rescues and check online sources.

The ASPCA considers pets to be members of the family who will be deeply affected by such a drastic change. We ask that you take a moment to consider that your pet’s life is in your hands. If your final decision is to surrender your companion animal, please call the ASPCA Adoption Center at (212) 876-7700. If we have space, you’ll be asked to bring your companion animal in to us during our public intake hours on Tuesdays between 1:00 P.M. and 3:00 P.M. In the case that we do not have space, we recommend that you use your personal contacts (veterinarian, dog walker, pet sitter, friends, family, coworkers, etc.), to find a healthy, suitable new home. Animal Care & Control (AC&C) of New York City at 326 East 110th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, is also an option. Please note, however, that AC&C is not a no-kill shelter, and animals who are brought to this facility have only a limited time in which to be adopted.

Please call the ASPCA Adoption Center at (212) 876-7700 before bringing in strays. If we have room in the shelter, we’ll ask you to bring them in during our public intake hours on Tuesdays between 1:00 P.M. and 3:00 P.M. However, we cannot guarantee that there will be space in the shelter for found animals. In the case that we do not have space, we’ll direct you to Animal Care & Control (AC&C) of New York City at 326 East 110th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues. AC&C can be reached by calling 311. The facility is not a no-kill shelter, and animals brought there have only a limited time in which to be adopted.

If you think that a friend or family member would benefit from having a pet, there’s a way for you to offer this gift while letting your friend have the experience of meeting and choosing the animal. The ASPCA’s Gift-a-Pet Certificate allows you to pay the adoption fee of a cat or kitten for the giftee of your choice. The recipient of the certificate may then come to the ASPCA Adoption Center and visit the cats and kittens in our care.

Since we do not euthanize animals for lack of space, animals who are physically and behaviorally healthy will remain under our care until they are adopted. We do not place a time limit on the search for a pet’s home.

The ASPCA Adoption Center is a limited admission shelter which takes in only as many animals as we can comfortably, humanely care for. As a result, the Adoption Center does not euthanize animals for lack of space, and the ASPCA does not support euthanasia as the predominant means of managing the pet overpopulation problem. We consider euthanasia as a last resort used only in extreme cases. We make every effort to place each of our shelter animals in a safe, responsible home. In a small percentage of cases, this may not be possible due to severe medical conditions that cause the animal to suffer, or due to extreme aggression that poses a danger to the community and the animal's quality of life. In these rare instances, humane euthanasia is carefully weighed and considered, and when it is absolutely necessary that an animal be euthanized, the euthanasia is done painlessly and humanely so as to prevent the animal from suffering.

How Much It Costs to Adopt from the ASPCA—and What’s Included in the Fee

During the first two weeks after adoption, every new pet can come into ASPCA Animal Hospital for a veterinary exam. Up to $250 worth of veterinary fees are covered, should your new pet develop an illness after arriving in his new home. Adopters must make their own appointment; after two weeks, all medical responsibilities fall into the adopter’s hands.

No, the ASPCA provides free microchipping.

No. All ASPCA animals, like most shelter pets, are spayed or neutered.

In addition to supporting our shelter’s ability to care for incoming animals, the ASPCA’s adoption fees cover spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations, microchipping and registration, as well as FeLV/FIV testing for cats and heartworm testing for dogs.

Yes, adoption fees for companion animals are:

  • Cats over 3 years of age: FREE
  • Cats age 4 months –3 years: $75.00
  • Kittens up to 4 months: $125.00
  • Dogs: $75 to $200* (smaller and younger dogs have higher adoption fees); mandatory obedience classes for puppies are $25.00 for 4 classes. NYC residents will need to pay $8.50 for the DOH dog license.

Fees include 14 days of free follow-up veterinary care at the ASPCA Animal Hospital, a leash and collar or carrier, and information about what to expect from your new pet.

We also require that all puppies attend obedience classes, which run an affordable $25 for four classes.

How To Adopt A Pet from the ASPCA Adoption Center

Right now we require two references from each adopter. However, we will soon be using the ASPCA’s Meet Your Match™ program, which scientifically evaluates an animal’s behavior and matches him or her to an adopter’s personality and lifestyle preferences. Once we’ve fully transferred over to this program, we’ll guide you in finding your pet and will no longer require references.

If your dog or cat is ready for adoption, you can take him home the same day your application is approved.

We do offer a hold service for pets, but only for unavailable dogs. If you meet a pet in the shelter who still needs to be neutered, for example, you may put down a $75 nonrefundable deposit. (The deposit will be refunded only in those cases where the adoption is not a suitable match.)

Adopting a pet can take as little as a few hours, provided you bring the materials required to complete an application. The ASPCA provides same-day adoptions for both cats and dogs.

When you arrive at the shelter, the Adoptions staff will ask you to complete a short Canine-ality™ or Feline-ality™ Assessment to identify what sort of dog or cat will best suit your lifestyle. For example, after work, do you love to go for long jogs or do you prefer to plop down in front of the tube? Depending on your response, we could match you with a dog who’s been identified as a “Go-Getter” or a “Couch Potato.”

After the survey, we’ll walk you through the shelter to meet our resident dogs and cats. If you meet a pet and fall in love at first sight, you will then fill out an application for adoption. We require two forms of identification, including a telephone, utility or cable bill as one form, plus a driver’s license, passport, or student or work ID.

If you don’t meet that “special one” during your first visit, you’re welcome to fill out an application and come back at a later date. Applications remain active and current for three months.

How to Report Animal Cruelty

When you report animal cruelty, it's a good idea to keep a careful record of exactly whom you contacted, the date of the contacts, copies of any documents you provided to law enforcement or animal control, and the content and outcome of your discussion. This will make following up much easier.

If you do not receive a response from the officer assigned to your case within a reasonable length of time, make a polite follow-up call to inquire about the progress of the investigation. As a last resort, and only if you are reasonably certain that no action has been taken on your complaint, you may wish to contact a supervisory officer or a local or state government official to request action.

Please keep in mind that most law enforcement agencies operate with limited personnel and resources. Most of these agencies are doing their best to conduct timely and efficient investigations. Being respectful of the challenges they face. Giving them the benefit of the doubt when appropriate will likely get you much further than premature complaints to their superiors.

Yes—let them know that you are taking the incident seriously. Make it clear that you are very interested in pursuing the case and that you are willing to lend assistance however you can. Although law enforcement agencies must pay attention to anonymous reports of serious crimes, including animal cruelty, they are more likely to follow up on cases where there are credible witnesses willing to stand behind the report and, if necessary, testify in court about what they may have witnessed.

Provide law enforcement with a concise, written statement of what you observed, giving dates and approximate times whenever possible. If you can do so without entering another person's property without their permission, you may wish to photograph the location, the animals and the surrounding area. If you can, provide law enforcement with the names and contact information for other people who have firsthand information about the situation.

It's important to understand that reporting cruelty is always the right thing to do. Because of the burden it places on the system, animal control officers do not want to remove an animal from a home unless absolutely necessary. If an animal is taken from his or her owner, there was a substantial problem. A seized animal will have the chance to get the necessary help, whether that help is nutritional, medical or behavioral. Also, if an intervention by law enforcement leads to a conviction, you may inadvertently have helped spare other animals from the same abuse: in many states, convicted animal abusers are barred from owning pets.

Yes, you can, and it is better to file an anonymous report than to do nothing—but please consider providing your information to the agency taking the complaint. These agencies have limited resources, and the case is more likely to be pursued when there are credible witnesses willing to stand behind the report and, if necessary, testify in court about what they may have witnessed.

Try to gather the following information before submitting a report of animal cruelty:

  • A concise, written, factual statement of what you observed—giving dates and approximate times whenever possible—to provide to law enforcement.
  • Photographs of the location, the animals in question and the surrounding area. However, please do not put yourself in danger! Do not enter another person's property without permission, and exercise great caution around unfamiliar animals who may be frightened or in pain.
  • If you can, provide law enforcement with the names and contact information of other people who have firsthand information about the abusive situation.

Remember, never give away a document without making a copy for yourself!

Human Medications and Cosmetics

I use jojoba oil on my skin, and my cat loves to lick off the residue on my fingers or the bathroom counter. Is jojoba oil toxic for cats? I thought it might be a good supplement for her skin and hair.

- Amy G.

Dear Amy,

Ingestions of oils like jojoba can lead to vomiting and diarrhea—the severity of which depends on the amount swallowed. Because cats groom their fur, it’s highly likely that any oil applied to the skin and coat would be ingested.

If you’re interested in providing your cat with a supplement to improve her skin and coat, we recommend asking your local veterinarian to find a product that is suitable for your kitty.

Is it safe to give Kaopectate to a 5-month old kitten? If so, how large or small a dosage can I give to her?

- Cristy C.

Cristy, new formulations of Kaopectate contain salicylates, which are similar to aspirin. Depending on the circumstances of exposure, large enough doses of bismuth salicylate could cause effects similar to aspirin poisoning. These include gastric irritation or ulceration, bleeding problems, seizures and liver damage.

Since many human medications can be harmful or even deadly to pets, the ASPCA advises pet owners never to give animals any medication or supplement that is not specifically prescribed for them by a veterinarian. If you suspect that your kitten may not be feeling well, you should call your vet so that she can be evaluated and given appropriate treatment.

If I pet my cats soon after using dry skin lotion on my hands, will it harm them when they groom themselves?

- Jane B.

Jane, we would not expect to see problems as a result of your cats coming into contact with your hands after you've applied non-medicated lotion. Should they happen to ingest a small amount of this lotion, it could potentially have a bit of a laxative effect, and may cause stomach upset. However, we would not anticipate systemic or life-threatening problems.

I am using nicotine patches for smoking cessation and a friend told me they are poisonous to pets. Can you tell me more?

- Bill W.

We sure can, Bill. Anti-smoking patches, like cigarettes and other tobacco products, can be dangerous for pets, depending on the circumstances of exposure. As they contain nicotine, they have the potential to produce severe vomiting, depression, elevated heart rate, a drop in blood pressure, seizures, respiratory failure and, in severe cases, even death. Based on this information, it is advisable to keep your nicotine patches out of the reach of pets, and dispose of used patches in a waste receptacle that they cannot get into.

My Doberman has very dry skin. I purchased human Omega-3 supplements for him, but I’m not sure if it’s okay for him to take them.

- Cynthia S.

As this supplement is labeled for use in humans, Cynthia, we’re afraid it would not be appropriate for us to recommend giving it to your Doberman. Instead, we would advise you to contact your local veterinarian in order to obtain a recommendation on an appropriate supplement or treatment to manage your dog's dry skin issue.

I was always told to give my dog Pepto Bismol for mild vomiting. But a friend recently told me that Pepto Bismol can be toxic to dogs. Is this true?

- Elisabeth B.

Pepto Bismol contains bismuth salicylate, which is somewhat similar to aspirin. While this medication has been prescribed by veterinarians at appropriate doses, large enough quantities of bismuth salicylate could cause effects similar to aspirin poisoning, depending on the circumstances of exposure

Because many human medications can be very harmful or even deadly to pets, the ASPCA advises pet owners to never give animals any medication or supplement that is not specifically prescribed by a veterinarian. If you suspect that your dog may not be feeling well, Elisabeth, call your vet so that your pet can be properly evaluated and given appropriate treatment.

Is petroleum jelly poisonous to pets?

- Paula M.

Petroleum jelly products contain petrolatum, which can cause gastrointestinal upset and have a laxative effect. And while not as volatile as other hydrocarbons, petroleum jelly may pose a slight risk for aspiration pneumonia if it gets inhaled into the lungs (via initial ingestion or vomiting). Based on this information, we advise keeping petrolatum products out of the reach of your pets.

Is the nasal decongestant pseudoephedrine safe to give to a dog for incontinence?

- Stephanie L.

Depending on the circumstances of exposure, Stephanie, pseudoephedrine can be very harmful or even deadly to pets, and therefore we would not advise giving it to your dog. Since many medications and nutritional supplements meant for human use can be harmful to pets, we strongly recommend consulting with your regular veterinarian to get advice on an appropriate medication that will meet your dog's needs.

My cat sleeps next to me on my bed at night and sometimes curls up on my pillow. Should I steer away from shampoos containing plant extracts that are poisonous to cats?

- Elizabeth C.

This is not likely a necessary measure you need to take, Elizabeth. Since shampoos leave little to no residue behind when they are rinsed out of the hair, we would not expect your cat to develop health issues from coming into close contact with your hair while sleeping with you at night.

Is sorbitol dangerous for dogs? It’s listed as an ingredient in my bichon/poodle mix’s toothpaste.

- Brandon

Dear Brandon,

Sorbitol is a plant-based sugar alcohol that’s used as a sweetener in many products, including sugar-free foods, laxatives and other medications. Due to its laxative capabilities, loose stools or diarrhea can occur if consumed in large doses. However, the amount of sorbitol in pet toothpaste used for brushing your pooch’s teeth is not likely to be an issue.

My Rottweiler had a wound on the side of her torso that has now healed. I was told to put Vicks Vapo Rub around the area to divert her from licking the wound. Could this be a problem if my dog were to ingest it?

- Debi C.

It could be a problem, Debi. Many topical vapor products contain essential oils such as camphor and eucalyptus, which have the potential to produce gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression. And if this product were aspirated or inhaled in large enough quantities, respiratory irritation and pneumonia could result.

Due to the high probability that your dog will ingest this product, and because it is not labeled for this intended use, we would not advise using this product on your Rottweiler. Instead, you should talk with your dog's regular veterinarian about an appropriate and safe method for keeping your dog from licking her wound.

Is over-the-counter ibuprofen safe for my Chesapeake Bay retriever?

- Samantha W.

In a word, NO. Ibuprofen can definitely be toxic to dogs and other pets—even in small amounts. Depending on the dose ingested, significant gastrointestinal damage or even kidney damage could result.

In fact, many drugs that are beneficial for humans can be harmful or even deadly for pets. We strongly urge you to never give your Chessie any medication without first speaking with his or her regular veterinarian.

I know that grapes are toxic to dogs, but how about grapeseed oil?

- Jackie S.

Good question, Jackie. At this time, we have no data indicating problems from exposure to grapeseed extract or oil, as we have seen with grapes or raisins. Most nutritional supplements and other products containing grapeseed oil or extract contain relatively small amounts, and so far we have not seen serious problems with canines.

Can I feed my dog fennel to ease her upset stomach?

- Audrey D.

Since we do not have an established doctor-patient relationship with your dog, Audrey, it would not be appropriate for us to make a recommendation for the use of this herb as a gastric aid. It is important never to give your dog any medication or supplement that is not specifically prescribed or recommended by your veterinarian. Many human medications and herbal supplements have the potential to be very harmful or even deadly to pets. If you suspect that your dog is not feeling well, we would advise you to contact your local veterinarian to determine whether she needs to be treated.

My boxer puppy likes to get hold of my bottle of face wash and play with it, but I keep worrying that he’ll chew it open. Is non-medicated face wash harmful to puppies if swallowed?

- Liz T.

Liz, facial cleansers such as the one you’ve described contain mild detergents, which can cause some gastrointestinal upset (including vomiting and diarrhea) if ingested. Because of this, we advise not allowing your pet to play with the bottle. Be sure to place it in a secure area where your pup cannot gain access to it.

I use an inhaler that contains essential oils in an alcohol base. Should I worry about my conure being on my shoulder when I use this product?

- Kendall P.

There certainly could be cause for concern, Kendall. Birds have unique respiratory systems that make them quite sensitive to aerosolized substances. If inhaled, the substance could cause irritation and subsequent fluid accumulation a bird's respiratory tract (known as acute pulmonary edema); this can be life-threatening.

Based on this, we would advise that you not allow your conure to perch on your shoulder or be in close proximity while you use your inhaler—or any other aerosolized product.

I recently heard from a friend that cinnamon keeps away fleas and most pests. Would cinnamon tablets help keep my cat’s flea problem at bay?

- Brenda

Dear Brenda,

We’re not aware of any clinical studies proving the effectiveness of cinnamon in repelling fleas and other insects, but we can confirm that cinnamon (of the plant genus Cinnamonum) contains substances that can irritate the gastrointestinal tract and other mucous membranes.

Remember, medications, supplements or herbal preparations should never be given to any pet without the approval of a veterinarian. Please contact your cat's regular vet to determine whether your desired treatment is appropriate.

If a pet accidentally ate a cigarette, could it be harmful?

- Marla D.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products can be dangerous for pets, Marla. These products contain nicotine, which has the potential to produce severe vomiting, depression, elevated heart rate, a drop in blood pressure, seizures, respiratory failure and, in severe cases, even death. Based on this information, it is advisable to keep tobacco products out of your pet’s reach. If an accidental ingestion occurs, seek veterinary help immediately.

Is the antibiotic Cefdinir safe for dogs?

- Joseph G.

The answer to your question, Joseph, largely depends on several factors—including the purpose for using the drug, whether or not the drug has been prescribed by a veterinarian at an appropriate dose, or if an accidental exposure has occurred.

If this medication has been prescribed by your vet, we recommend following up with him or her to discuss your safety concerns. If it’s a case of accidental exposure, your best course of action would be to contact your vet, a local emergency clinic or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center's hotline at (888) 426-4435. Otherwise, we do not advise giving this or any other medication to your dog without the direction of your veterinarian.

Is it safe to give dogs oral breath strips for humans? A friend recently saw me giving one to our dogs, and told me they were toxic.

- Hope F.

We would not advise giving your dogs these strips—or, for that matter, any other product not specifically formulated for use in pets. Certain breath strips contain menthol, which can be irritating to the tissues of the mouth and the gastrointestinal tract. Some breath-freshening products could also contain the sweetener xylitol, which has the potential to cause a sharp drop in a dog's blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures; in some cases, this could even result in liver damage. If you wish to control your dogs’ breath problem, we recommend talking with your veterinarian to discuss a safe and appropriate oral hygiene program.

I have many decorative soaps in my home. Could they be harmful to my dog if he were to eat one?

- Mindy S.

Most bar soaps contain detergents, which can cause gastrointestinal irritation (including vomiting and diarrhea) if ingested. If the soap also contains essential oils (such as lavender, for example), it is possible that minor central nervous system depression could occur, depending on the concentration of oils and other circumstances of exposure. Certain soaps are made with glycerin or other emollients, which can have a cathartic effect—causing loose stools or diarrhea. If gastrointestinal signs become persistent, they could lead to dehydration.

In addition, if a large portion or the entire bar of soap were to be ingested, it could potentially lead to obstruction in the animal’s gastrointestinal tract. Because of these concerns, we advise keeping your decorative soaps in an area that is not accessible to your dog.

Can I give baby aspirin to my 85-pound chocolate Lab for joint pain?

- Karen

Dear Karen,

It’s never a good idea to administer any medication to your pet without the direction of your regular veterinarian, so I would highly recommend talking with your dog's vet to determine what type of pain relief is most appropriate. On occasion, veterinarians may dispense low-dose aspirin for pets, but for certain animals, aspirin may not be the best option.

Is it safe to use vinegar and water or Avon's Skin so Soft to get rid of a ferret’s fleas?

- Jasper

Flea prevention is a serious topic, Jasper. Therefore, we recommend you consult your veterinarian before trying any products at home. A vet-recommended flea prevention product will likely be more effective than water and vinegar or Skin So Soft. In addition, Skin So Soft has not been approved for use on ferrets, so please consult with your vet before you decide to use it.

Is it OK for dogs to take aspirin?

- Katie F.

That depends, Katie. While certain veterinarians may prescribe buffered aspirin in low doses for their canine patients, we strongly advise owners to never give their pets any medication without first consulting with their regular veterinarian. Many drugs, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like aspirin, can cause serious or potentially life-threatening problems, depending on the dose involved.

If you feel that your dog needs pain relief for any reason, we highly recommend that you get in touch with your veterinarian—if you have not already—so that your dog can be evaluated. You vet can direct you regarding the best dose to use or, if necessary, can prescribe a different pain reliever.

Can snake antivenom be purchased for administration by the pet owner?

- Sue M.

Great question, Sue. While certain antivenin kits (which contain antibodies against a specific type of venom) may be available in some areas, they are not really practical for the average pet owner, because most antivenins don't deal with all kinds of snakes. They are made for a specific species or group of snake, spider or other venomous creature. If you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a snake, it is best that you seek immediate veterinary care. Attempts to remove or counteract the poison yourself are usually ineffective. You’ll only waste valuable time needed to get your pet into the proper hands. Keep your pet as calm and inactive as possible as you get him or her to the nearest veterinary clinic. It would be helpful to the veterinarian if you could describe the venomous creature’s size, color and markings, but please do not get too close or attempt to capture it. You may be stung or bitten yourself!

My 19-year-old male cat has become addicted to petroleum jelly. For years, I would give him a small amount to lick from my finger if I thought he had hairballs. Now he demands it every night. Is this a bad idea?

- Stewart

Dear Stewart,

Petroleum jelly contains petrolatum, which can cause gastrointestinal upset and have a laxative effect. While not as volatile as other hydrocarbons, petroleum jelly may pose a slight risk for aspiration pneumonia if the substance is inhaled into the lungs via initial ingestion or vomiting. Based on this information, it's really best to eliminate your cat’s nightly petroleum jelly habit.

What effects can be observed if a dog were to eat Adderall?

- Erica M.

Erica, Adderall contains amphetamines, which stimulate the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. Amphetamines can be very harmful or even deadly to pets if enough are ingested, potentially causing hyperactivity, tremors and seizures, fever, abnormal heart rate and rhythm, coma and even death.

If you suspect that your dog has been exposed to this medication, please note that this column is for general information only, and is not meant for the assessment or management of animal exposures or other time-sensitive medical issues. Your best course of action would be to contact your local veterinarian or our emergency poison hotline directly at (888) 426-4435. Please note that in order to remain in operation, we are a fee-based service ($65 for toxicological consultation), just as your regular veterinarian is.

Humane Law Enforcement Q&A

- Megan
 

There are always risks in this field, but common sense is our best defense. It’s very important to have a bond with your partner—to be able to read each other’s facial and body language in any given situation, and to know how to appropriately react. You also have to remain on guard, always, and try to diffuse a potential problem before it escalates. If a situation does get out of hand, it’s important to remove yourself until backup arrives.

- Special Agent Ann Kelly

- Brian
 

In all of the years I have worked with the ASPCA, there is no better feeling than seeing that look in an animal’s eyes. I became a Special Agent because knowing that I could make a difference means a lot to me. I also enjoy educating the public about the proper way to care for their pets.

- Special Agent Peter Rivas

- Nikki
 

Great question, it’s important that you just be there for the animals who are neglected or abused. Give them the support and love they need to start a new life and help them forget their pasts. They need to see positivity in you, so don't let them down. Keep up the good work, Nikki. I know it’s not easy.

- Special Investigator Diane DiGiacomo

- Katie
 

I try really hard not to, but have yet to master that ability. It would be very easy for me to adopt all of the animals I save, but if I did, I'd have a zoo at home! As an ASPCA Special Agent, you really have to make sure you put your emotions aside so that you can do your job to the best of your ability, which ultimately helps more animals. We all care about what happens to the animal victims we rescue. There is really no greater feeling than to see an abused or neglected animal adopted into a forever home where they will be safe and loved.

- Special Agent Joann Sandano

- Ranen


Thanks for the question, Ranen. It feels great to help animals who cannot speak up for themselves and, when abused and neglected, cannot tend to themselves. I always tell people, there are no laws that state you must own an animal, but there are laws that make you responsible if you decide to. It’s a great and rewarding job.

- Special Investigator Paul Romano

- Wanda
 

Doing this kind of work can certainly be overwhelming sometimes. I have known many other law enforcement officers—seasoned veterans—who have asked me, “How can you do this job, because I could not.” We maintain our cool because we are professionals and have to get it done. That abused or dying animal’s life depends on how we conduct ourselves. Yes, there are days when we can barely stop to go to the bathroom, we are so busy—but at the end of the day when we see what we did for the animals, we know we did a good job.

- Special Investigator Paul Romano

- Barbara
 

The most common cases that we investigate involve neglect and intentional abuse, Barbara, but even though most of the complaints we receive have similar themes, every situation is different, challenging and oftentimes surprising. You never really know what you’re walking into when you arrive at a scene. For example, I could be called to investigate a complaint about someone who’s not feeding the dog living in their yard—and upon arrival, I could find a half-dying animal who is skin and bones and has never been to a vet.

- Supervisory Special Investigator Annemarie Lucas

- Todd, age 9
 

Great question, Todd! The answer is both yes and no. The police department is a city agency, while the ASPCA is a private nonprofit organization funded through donations. But we do have the same ability the police department does to arrest people and do other important things to solve crimes. If we need a search warrant, we go through the same process they do to get one. We also collect evidence, investigate crime scenes and take photographs. Photographic evidence is actually one of the most important aspects of a case. Animals can’t speak, so the photos help get the message out there. In cruelty cases, pictures are not worth a thousand, but a million words!

- Special Agent Kristi Adams

- Catherine L.
 

I believe many do change their attitude, Catherine, but some do not. We have arrested some individuals more than once on animal abuse charges. This is one reason that we often request the courts to order convicted animal abusers not to own animals for a specified period of time after conviction – most often for either one or three years.

- Special Investigator Diane DiGiacomo

Insects

I recently noticed my dog eating rabbit feces off the ground. What effect could this have on her?

- Kim B.

Kim, the consumption of fecal matter can cause bacterial-related gastrointestinal problems, and may also transmit parasites such as worms and certain diseases. Therefore, it is a good idea to discourage your dog from ingesting rabbit feces. To help curb this habit, you may wish to bring your dog outside in the backyard on a leash. There you will have an opportunity to teach her that eating rabbit droppings is a no-no.

Are Japanese beetles poisonous to dogs? My Westie loves to go searching for bugs and often catches these insects.

- Christi W.

The answer to your question, Christi, is no. Popillia japonica, the Japanese beetle, is not known to be toxic to pets. However, these iridescent pests do have very hard exoskeletons, and physical irritation to the gastrointestinal tract can occur in addition to general stomach upset from ingesting the insect. The bottom line? While eating a Japanese beetle might make your Westie vomit, you need not be concerned about him becoming poisoned as a result.

I recently used an insect killer containing bifenthrin to kill ants in our home. When is it safe to let my cats back in the treated area?

- Stephanie M.

The product you mention contains a pyrethrin-like insecticide in a very small concentration. As with most residential-use insect sprays applied per label instructions, once this product has been allowed to dry, very little if any of the insecticide would be available for your cat to come into contact with. We would not expect a problem from your cat returning to the treated area once dry.

I just purchased a bearded dragon lizard, and was told not to feed him fireflies. Do you know why?

- Carrie N.

Fireflies belonging to the genus Photinus, which are quite common in many parts of the United States, contain chemical components called lucibufagins. These components are similar to the toxic secretions of some poisonous toads. Many species of animals can be affected by this toxic chemical, but most will avoid eating these insects.

However, we have reports that certain kinds of lizards—particularly the bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), an Australian native who’s become popular as a pet—have died as a result of being fed fireflies. Perhaps because they evolved in a firefly-free environment, bearded dragons don’t appear to have the innate aversion to fireflies that is present in most native animals. Therefore, it is important that reptile caretakers do not offer these insects to their pets.

My Pomeranians like to hunt and eat earthworms. Because we chemically treat our yard, I’m worried that the chemicals could be transmitted from the worms to our dogs.

- Pamela R.

What an interesting hobby your Pomeranians have! Seriously, though, it's a bit difficult to answer your question definitively, Pamela, without knowing exactly what you treat your yard with. However, we can tell you that we would not expect significant amounts of most insecticides or herbicides to be present in earthworms, and would therefore not expect a poisoning to occur from an earthworm that was living in a chemically treated lawn.

With that said, we would still recommend discouraging your Pomeranians from ingesting earthworms, as this can lead to stomach upset, and potentially even bacterial-related gastrointestinal problems.

My cats have recently begun playing with crickets, and I’ve even seen them eat them. Could this cause problems?

- Caitlin M

Caitlin, we currently do not have any data demonstrating that the field cricket (Gryllus sp.), mole cricket (Scapteriscus borellia) or other common cricket species are toxic to pets. However, the ingestion of insects can produce some mild gastrointestinal upset—so we advise that whenever possible, you should discourage your cats from consuming crickets.

We have a number of cicada killer wasps in our yard, and I’m concerned about my dogs. Do they sting?

- Sharon G.

Good question, Sharon! And it’s especially timely because one afternoon a few weeks ago, an APCC staffer and her daughter were terrified to find themselves practically face to face with one of these creatures—one of the largest wasps in North America. As they have four dogs and a young child in their family, they wanted to learn all they could about them—and were relieved to find that they are not as dangerous as they appear to be.

There are different species of this genus of wasp (Sphecius), living regionally throughout the U.S. The male cicada killer has no stinger, and the female possesses a tube on her rear called an ovipositor (used to lay eggs). She does have the ability to sting (first injecting a paralyzing venom into the cicada, she drags it back to the burrow for her larvae), but will typically not do so unless in considerable danger, i.e., handled roughly or stepped on. They do tend to fly around the heads of people and animals who venture too close to their burrows, which are usually found in dry soil with sparse vegetation; because of their size, this can be quite scary. However, it is more likely that they are either curious, or simply trying to ward off people from stepping on their nests with this "dive bombing" behavior. The good news is that these insects are usually above ground for only a month or two at most, at which point they die off.

Should your dog wind up getting stung by a female cicada killer, see your veterinarian for treatment. Serious problems would not be expected unless your dog happens to be allergic to bee or wasp venom; in that case, we would recommend taking your dog to your local clinic for treatment right away, as significant allergic reactions can become life-threatening.

Kids, Teachers & Families

Good for you for planning ahead—it could save your pets’ lives! Follow our six steps to emergency pet preparedness.

We also recommend that you download the Ready New York brochure [PDF] prepared by the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

Nothing makes us happier than young people with a passion for animals. It’s true, for safety’s sake lots of shelters require an age minimum for their volunteers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help. Here are a few ideas:

  • Shelters are always looking for sheets, blankets and towels to use as bedding. How about starting a drive at your school where you collect these items?
  • Hold a bake sale and donate the profits to your favorite shelter.
  • Volunteer to walk your elderly (or busy!) neighbor’s dog!
  • Start an animal volunteer-themed club at your school.
  • Teach your younger siblings about why it’s important to be kind to animals.

Laws About Animal Cruelty

Establishing a dedicated squad of animal cruelty officers with investigatory and arrest powers requires changes to a state's statute. This is extremely difficult to achieve. The next best thing you can do to make sure that complaints of animal cruelty are answered is to work with your community's current police officers, who already have the power to enforce all of your state's laws—including animal cruelty laws. Police are paid with tax dollars—you have the right to be the proverbial "squeaky wheel" and make sure that they are willing and able to respond to cruelty.

One idea is to lobby your police department to implement a plan similar to the one used by the police force of Granite City, IL. The Granite City Police Department asked for existing officers who liked animals to volunteer to be regular responders to animal- and cruelty-related complaints and 911 emergencies. At the department's request, educators from the ASPCA gave these officers on-site training to prepare them for the unique demands of this specialized form of law enforcement. The Granite City P.D. then made sure to arrange work schedules so that at least one of these officers would be working every shift. The result is that there is always a police officer on duty who is qualified to handle animal cruelty cases.

If you have questions about on-site training for law enforcement, please send an email to lobby@aspca.org; don't forget to include your location. The ASPCA also offers a free online training course, "Investigating Animal Abuse for Law Enforcement," for police and animal control officers. It covers such vital topics as animal abuse and community policing, evidence collection and preservation, and officer safety. To learn more, please contact us.

If you feel that your pet is in danger, do whatever you can to shield him or her from harm—for instance, bring your outdoor cat inside and always accompany your dog outside, keeping him on a leash at all times.

You should also file a complaint with your local police; depending on the law where you live, verbal or written threats may constitute criminal harassment. Be sure to keep any tangible evidence of threats against your pets and yourself. If the threats are serious enough, you may be able to get a restraining order against the person making them. If this is the route you wish to go, enlist the aid of a lawyer. Above all, please be careful.

Eleven states currently mandate that veterinarians report suspicions of animal cruelty, including suspected dog fighting activity, to the appropriate authorities. Many other states encourage veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty by granting civil immunity to those who make good-faith reports to the appropriate agencies. Such reporting is supported by professional veterinary organizations including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). The AAHA position statement on reporting, revised in 2003, states:

"Since veterinarians have a responsibility to the welfare of animals and the public and can be the first to detect animal abuse in a family, they should take an active role in detecting, preventing and reporting animal abuse. While some states and provinces do not require veterinarians to report animal abuse, the association supports the adoption of laws requiring, under certain circumstances, veterinarians to report suspected cases of animal abuse. Reporting should only be required when client education has failed, when there is no likelihood that client education will be successful, or in situations in which immediate intervention is indicated and only when the law exempts veterinarians from civil and criminal liability for reporting."

The Internet delivers an astounding array of images and ideas into homes across the world. But not all of these images are particularly animal-friendly. In fact, some of what is being sold and shown online crosses into the realm of criminal activity. And in some cases, there are laws against showing and selling these images.

To report websites that display acts of cruelty to animals, please contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice.

Some will and some will not—the penalties for animal cruelty vary widely from state to state, and they also depend on the exact charges, the heinousness of the crime and on the perpetrator's criminal record.

Felonies almost always carry stronger penalties than misdemeanors, which rarely involve a jail sentence. Whether a particular criminal act is considered a felony or a misdemeanor can vary from state to state, and the federal government has its own definitions as well.

Sometimes, repetition of a misdemeanor-level crime can lead to a felony-level charge—meaning that a subsequent offense of a crime a person has been convicted of in the past will be considered a felony, and not a misdemeanor. This is not true of all laws, however, or of all states. In Colorado, for instance, a person's first conviction for animal cruelty is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, but a second or subsequent conviction for animal cruelty is a Class 6 Felony.

Local Laws & Services

You are asking about a complex issue known as animal hoarding. The common signs of an animal hoarder are deteriorating conditions and denial or lack of insight that there is a problem. But not everyone who has multiple animals is an animal hoarder. A person may have a dozen animals, and all are spayed and neutered and provided with regular vet care and a sanitary environment. You can read more about the criteria used to define animal hoarding here.

In almost all animal hoarding cases, the person and the animals are suffering. You may not want to get the person “in trouble,” but a phone call may be the first step in helping them and their animals:

- Although it is not clearly understood why people become animal hoarders, they do tend to neglect themselves and are often elderly and isolated from the community. The fact is that they and their animals need help, and calling your local humane law enforcement department may be a way to initiate the process. Cruelty situations involving animals in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island should be reported to the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement Department at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4450. If you live in the Bronx and need to report animal cruelty, please call 311. 

- Contact other social service groups and ask them to get involved! Department of the Aging, adult protective services, health departments and other mental health agencies may be able to provide services or links to services. It’s important to get the animal hoarder connected to other people and services.

- Please note: if the individual is facing immediate eviction and needs to remove the animals in a short period of time, please contact NYC’s Animal Care and Control by calling 311 or the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals at info@animalalliancenyc.org.

Please know that the ASPCA does not have certified wildlife rehabilitators on staff, nor do we have wildlife experts or a wildlife department.

Likewise, Animal Care and Control (AC&C) of New York City will not remove raccoons or opossums from properties; however, it does accept pigeons, gulls, starlings, sparrows and squirrels at any of its facilities.

The following organizations in and near New York City will assist wildlife and/or offer resources:

- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
(718) 482-4922

- Volunteers for Wildlife (Long Island)
(631) 423-0982

- New York Herpetological Society (reptiles and amphibians)
(212) 740-3580

For animals found in city parks, please call Urban Park Rangers at (800) 201-PARK.

In some situations, it may be necessary to contract the services of a professional company that can remove nuisance animals from your residence. Humane services may be found by calling the organizations mentioned above, or by looking in your local yellow pages. The ASPCA urges you to use only those services that offer responsible and humane treatment of animals.

For further information on this topic or a list of wildlife rehabilitators in the New York City area, please call 311.

Complaints about barking dogs in New York City can be made to the Department of Environmental Protection at 311.

In 1978, New York State passed the Canine Waste Law (Section 1310 of the New York State Public Health Code) requiring city dog owners to scoop the poop. While most urban pet parents are responsible and do clean up after their pups, there are always a few bad seeds in the Big Apple—and there are certain blocks, usually on less densely populated streets, which seem to attract this breed of dog owner.

To report such problem areas, please either call 311 or fill out this online form provided by the Department of Sanitation (DOS).

The DOS takes this problem seriously, writing hundreds of tickets to Canine Waste Law violators every year. However, if you have contacted the DOS several times and seen no improvement to the dog poop problem, consider contacting your community board and your representative on the New York City Council.

Species that are considered wildlife or endangered are not permitted to be kept, possessed, harbored or sold in New York City. Ferrets, iguanas and tarantulas are among these species:

Article 161 (“Animals”) of the Health Code outlines exactly which species are forbidden:

Health Code § 161.01 Wild animals prohibited. [PDF]
(1) All dogs other than domesticated dogs (Canis familiaris), including, but not limited to, wolf, fox, coyote, hyena, dingo, jackal, dhole, fennec, raccoon dog, zorro, bush dog, aardwolf, cape hunting dog and any hybrid offspring of a wild dog and domesticated dog.
(2) All cats other than domesticated cats (Felis catus), including, but not limited to, lion, tiger, leopard, ocelot, jaguar, puma, panther, mountain lion, cheetah, wild cat, cougar, bobcat, lynx, serval, caracal, jaguarundi, margay and any hybrid offspring of a wild cat and domesticated cat.
(3) All bears, including polar, grizzly, brown and black bear.
(4) All fur bearing mammals of the family Mustelidae, including, but not limited to, weasel, marten, mink, badger, ermine, skunk, otter, pole cat, zorille, wolverine, stoat and ferret.
(5) All Procyonidae: All raccoon (eastern, desert, ring-tailed cat), kinkajou, cacomistle, cat-bear, panda and coatimundi.
(6) All carnivorous mammals of the family Viverridae, including, but not limited to, civet, mongoose, genet, binturong, fossa, linsang and suricate.
(7) All bats (Chiroptera).
(8) All non-human primates, including, but not limited to, monkey, ape, chimpanzee, gorilla and lemur.
(9) All squirrels (Sciuridae).
(10) Reptiles (Reptilia). All Helodermatidae (gila monster and Mexican beaded lizard); all front-fanged venomous snakes, even if devenomized, including, but not limited to, all Viperidae (viper, pit viper), all Elapidae (cobra, mamba, krait, coral snake), all Atractaspididae (African burrowing asp), all Hydrophiidae (sea snake), all Laticaudidae (sea krait); all venomous, mid-or rear-fanged, Duvernoy-glanded members of the family Colubridae, even if devenomized; any member, or hybrid offspring of the family Boidae, including, but not limited to, the common or green anaconda and yellow anaconda; any member of the family Pythonidae, including but not limited to the African rock python, Indian or Burmese python, Amethystine or scrub python; any member of the family Varanidae, including the white throated monitor, Bosc's or African savannah monitor, Komodo monitor or dragon, Nile monitor, crocodile monitor, water monitor, Bornean earless monitor; any member of the family Iguanidae, including the green or common iguana; any member of the family teiidae, including, but not limited to the golden, common, or black and white tegu; all members of the family Chelydridae, including snapping turtle and alligator snapping turtle; and all members of the order Crocodylia, including, but not limited to alligator, caiman and crocodile.
(11) Birds and Fowl (Aves): All predatory or large birds, including, but not limited to, eagle, hawk, falcon, owl, vulture, condor, emu, rhea and ostrich; roosters, geese, ducks and turkeys prohibited or otherwise regulated pursuant to ?þ 161.19 of this Code, the Agriculture and Markets Law or applicable federal law.
(12) All venomous insects, including, but not limited to, bee, hornet and wasp.
(13) Arachnida and Chilopoda: All venomous spiders, including, but not limited to, tarantula, black widow and solifugid; scorpion; all venomous arthropods including, but not limited to, centipede.
(14) All large rodents (Rodentia), including, but not limited to, gopher, muskrat, paca, woodchuck, marmot, beaver, prairie dog, capybara, sewellel, viscacha, porcupine and hutia.
(15) All even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla) including, but not limited to, deer, antelope, sheep, giraffe and hippopotamus.
(16) All odd-toed ungulates (Perissodactyla) other than domesticated horses (Equus caballus), including, but not limited to, zebra, rhinoceros and tapir.
(17) All marsupials, including, but not limited to, Tasmanian devil, dasyure, bandicoot, kangaroo, wallaby, opossum, wombat, koala bear, cuscus, numbat and pigmy, sugar and greater glider.
(18) Sea mammals (Cetacea, Pinnipedia and Sirenia), including, but not limited to, dolphin, whale, seal, sea lion and walrus.
(19) All elephants (Proboscides).
(20) All hyrax (Hyracoidea).
(21) All pangolin (Pholidota).
(22) All sloth and armadillo (Edentala).
(23) Insectivorous mammals (Insectivora): All aardvark (Tubulidentata), anteater, shrew, otter shrew, gymnure, desman, tenrec, mole and hedge hog.
(24) Gliding lemur (Dermoptera).

In addition to domesticated dogs and cats, the following are legal to keep as pets in New York City: gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, domesticated rabbits and fowl or small birds such as parakeets, parrots, canaries and finches.

If you have any questions about the above list, call the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at (800) 698-0411.

Mail from the ASPCA

I wish to receive fewer solicitations. How do I stop receiving so much mail?

If you’d like to receive fewer solicitations, please contact 800-628-0028 or email membership@aspca.org. We will be happy to rectify the situation for you. Please be aware that it will take a bit of time to process this request, because mailings are prepared in advance. You may not see a marked difference for a few months.

I wish to update my address/be removed from your mailing list/remove a deceased individual from the mailing list.

Please call 800-628-0028 or email membership@aspca.org. We will be happy to accommodate you. To ensure a quick resolution, please provide us with complete name and address information.

I am receiving multiple mailing to the same address.

We most likely have more than one member record for you in our database.

Please call 800-628-0028 or email membership@aspca.org. We will be happy to remedy this for you. To ensure a quick resolution, please provide us with complete name and address information.

Misc.

Patriot Paws is committed to train service dogs that will enhance the lives of disabled veterans who have sacrificed so much for our nation and to provide a service for other American’s with mobile disabilities. To meet this goal, Patriot PAWS intends to build partnerships with community and state organizations to help support this undertaking.       

How many pets are in the United States? How many animals are in shelters?

Facts about U.S. Animal Shelters:

There are about 13,600 community animal shelters nationwide that are independent; there is no national organization monitoring these shelters. The terms “humane society” and “SPCA” are generic; shelters using those names are not part of the ASPCA or the Humane Society of the United States. Currently, no government institution or animal organization is responsible for tabulating national statistics for the animal protection movement. These are national estimates; the figures may vary from state to state.

  • Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.

  • Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).

  • Approximately 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.4 million dogs and 1.3 million cats).

  • About 649,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 542,000 are dogs and only 100,000 are cats.

  • Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 35% are adopted, 31% are euthanized and 26% of dogs who came in as strays are returned to their owner. 

  • Of the cats entering shelters, approximately 37% are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% of cats who came in as strays are returned to their owners.

  • About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.

Facts about Pet Ownership in the U.S.:

  • It's estimated that 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 37-47% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 30-37% have a cat. (Source: APPA)

  • According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 40% of pet owners learned about their pet through word of mouth.

  • The majority of pets are obtained from acquaintances and family members. 28% of dogs are purchased from breeders, and 29% of cats and dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues.

  • More than 35% of cats are acquired as strays. (Source: APPA)

  • According to the American Humane Association, the most common reasons why people relinquish or give away their dogs is because their place of residence does not allow pets (29%), not enough time, divorce/death and behavior issues (10% each). The most common reasons for cats are that they were not allowed in the residence (21%) and allergies (11%).

Facts about Pet Overpopulation in the U.S.:

  • It is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States; estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.

  • The average number of litters a fertile cat produces is one to two a year; the average number of kittens is four to six per litter.

  • The average number of litters a fertile dog produces is one a year; the average number of puppies is four to six.

  • Owned cats and dogs generally live longer, healthier lives than strays.

  • Many strays are lost pets who were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.

  • Only 10%of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, while 83% of pet dogs and 91% of pet cats are spayed or neutered.

  • The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for a year.

The following data are ASPCA estimates unless otherwise indicated.


You may also wish to visit:

The National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy (NCPPSP)
http://www.petpopulation.org

The American Veterinary Medical Association
http://www.avma.org (see U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics)

Also, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association is a great resource for statistics on pets and pet ownership in the United States. You can visit them and order their most current survey.

The following websites offer detailed information on homeless and unwanted animals, the pet overpopulation crisis, and the importance of spaying and neutering your pets:

Where can I find an attorney who has experience in issues involving animals?

The ASPCA Legal Department provides counsel to the ASPCA and cannot give out legal advice to or act as an attorney for outside organizations or individuals. We do, however, offer information on resources nationwide that may be helpful in resolving problems.

Please note that while the ASPCA does not endorse any of the following organizations, they may be able to refer you to a lawyer with animal law experience in your area:

Legal Action for Animals
(718) 544-0605

The Association of the Bar of the City of New York Legal Referral Service
(212) 626-7373

ABCNY Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals
Contact Meena Alagappan

Legal Aid in New York City
Manhattan: (212) 426-3000, (212) 577-3300
Bronx: (718) 991-4600
Brooklyn: (718) 722-3100, (718) 645-6613
Queens: (718) 286-2450
Staten Island: (718) 273-6677

Legal Services for New York City
(212) 431-7200

Animal Legal Defense Fund
(707) 795-2533

American Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
(800) 285-2221

Municode.com
Information on local laws and ordinances

Miscellaneous

Are the inserts you put in gloves to keep your hands warm harmful if dogs ingest them?

- Jerame S.

Jerame, certain hand-warmers may contain elemental iron that can be harmful, depending on the amount ingested and other factors. Iron poisoning presents itself in three different phases. The first phase, gastrointestinal tract irritation?vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody)?will typically occur within six hours of ingestion. During the second phase, the animal will appear to have recovered while the body's cells are absorbing the iron. The third phase begins approximately 12 to 24 hours later, during which the animal will experience a relapse of gastrointestinal signs, as well as shock, metabolic disturbances, severe depression, seizure activity, pulmonary edema, liver, kidney and blood cell damage. If the animal survives beyond this point, a condition called pyloric stenosis could result in gastric obstruction two to six weeks after ingestion.

Because of the risk of serious illness or even death from iron poisoning, we urge pet owners to keep all products containing iron out of the reach of their animals. Should an accidental exposure occur, owners should contact their local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435 for immediate assistance.

Is glow jewelry hazardous to dogs?

- Kathy B.

Colorful, plastic glow-in-the-dark jewelry, such as necklaces, bracelets and hand-held glow sticks, are not usually harmful, Kathy. While the luminescent liquid inside these products might look as though it could be poisonous, the relatively small quantity of fluid generally has a low potential for toxicity.

This oily, glowing substance is called dibutyl phthalate, and can be found in a wide variety of products, from plastics to insect repellents. Based on our experience, most animals who have chewed on glow jewelry have exhibited signs such as profuse drooling, hyperactivity, agitation and/or aggressive behavior. However, while these effects may seem serious and quite alarming to pet owners, they are typically transient, lasting only a few minutes, and are only a response to the liquid’s unpleasant taste. Generally, the only treatment needed is diluting the residue of taste by giving your pet a small amount of milk, tuna juice or soft pet food. If the residue is on the animal’s skin or hair coat, mild soap and water can be used to wash it off?and you’ll avoid the possibility of further ingestion when the animal grooms himself.

Are flocked Christmas trees toxic? One of my cats will eat anything she gets her mouth on, and I’m afraid that she might eat flocking if it falls off the tree.

- Shawnda H.

We have good news, Shawnda. Dried Christmas tree flocking is not considered to be a poisoning hazard to pets. But do keep in mind that if a pet were to swallow large pieces of flocking, a gastrointestinal obstruction could result.

If you are planning on spraying flocking on your tree, we advise that you keep your pets out of the area while applying it. You’ll also need to ensure that it is thoroughly dry before letting them back in the room to avoid problems from accidental exposure such as skin, mucous membrane or gastrointestinal irritation.

Can flea products for dogs be used on cats?

- Jeff

Dear Jeff,

It is important for pet parents to use only products that are labeled for your specific species of animal. Any “off-label” use must be approved by your pet's regular veterinarian to prevent any serious health issues.

Is it okay to give a 120-pound Yellow Lab four times the dosage of a flea medication intended for a 30-pound dog?

- Audri

Dear Audri,

What you're describing is considered "off-label" use—or using the product outside of the label instructions for application. Since we don't have an established doctor-patient relationship with your pet, we can't recommend using the product in this manner. Please consult with your dog's regular veterinarian to get the appropriate dosage information for your Lab.

Ice

I have a beagle mix, and I was wondering if ice is dangerous to dogs. My mom read many years ago that ice is dangerous because it changes the dog’s temperature too quickly.

- Kim F.

The answer to your question, Kim, really depends on the circumstances involved. For example, since mammals are warm-blooded, nibbling on an ice cube or two is not likely to have any impact on an animal's body temperature. This means that their bodies have ways to keep their temperature levels normal in most situations. But, if a pet is placed in an icy tub of water, is left outside in the cold for too long or is otherwise exposed to too much ice for an extended period of time, the body's temperature can become unstable and a dangerous drop in temperature, known as hypothermia, can occur.

The bottom line? Offering your beagle mix a few bits of ice here and there is not an issue. Just don't feed her huge amounts of ice or expose her to environmental situations that could cause her temperature to drop.

I just bought some ice melt. Is this safe for my dog?

- Janelle G.

Janelle, ice melt contains calcium chloride, which has the potential to be corrosive. It may cause severe skin and gastrointestinal tract irritation, depending on the concentration and circumstances of exposure. Because of this, if you plan to use this ice melt on your property, take care not to apply it thickly—and wipe your dog's paws off thoroughly if he or she steps on any of the crystals or pellets.

As an extra note, keep a look out for ice melt products that are labeled as “pet safe.” You may wish to consider these as a relatively safer alternative.

I recently used an insect killer containing bifenthrin to kill ants in our home. When is it safe to let my cats back in the treated area?

- Stephanie M.

The product you mention contains a pyrethrin-like insecticide in a very small concentration. As with most residential-use insect sprays applied per label instructions, once this product has been allowed to dry, very little if any of the insecticide would be available for your cat to come into contact with. We would not expect a problem from your cat returning to the treated area once dry.

Is professionally-applied weed treatment and fertilizer safe for my dog? My particular brand indicates that it’s safe for children and animals after about an hour—or once it’s dry.

- Kelly

Dear Kelly,

Most lawn products, designed for residential use, do not pose a risk provided they’re used according to label directions. If instructions include allowing the treated area to dry thoroughly before allowing people and pets to return, the directions need to be followed exactly to avoid minor skin or stomach irritation and to prevent the weed killer from being transferred to other, desirable vegetation.

I have a nest of wild baby rabbits in my yard, and a lawn care company is coming out to put down fertilizer and weed preventer. Will it harm the rabbits?

- Katie K.

Most herbicides made for residential use are generally considered to be safe for use in environments where animals frequent, as long as the label instructions are followed exactly. For example, if a weed killer spray label states, "Keep animals away from treated areas until dry," it is important to adhere to these instructions in order to avoid problems. If these instructions are not followed, affected animals might exhibit such symptoms as mild skin or gastrointestinal irritation, or the desirable vegetation could be damaged from unintentional spread of the herbicide.

Since your situation involves nesting wild rabbits who cannot be as easily kept away from treated areas as can a dog or cat, we would first suggest putting up a temporary barricade around the nest (using wire garden fencing or something similarly appropriate) to keep the rabbits safely enclosed while the yard is being treated. We would also advise that the lawn company avoid applying the fertilizer and herbicide in close proximity to the nest to avoid unintentional overspray. The barricade should be kept in place to keep the rabbits off the lawn for a few hours to allow the treated areas time to dry. Once the treated areas are dry, we would not anticipate problems from the rabbits having contact with the lawn.

My Welsh Corgi gets into mulch every time he goes outside. Is it harmful to him?

- Angela

Dear Angela,

Mulch varieties such as pine, spruce, cedar and fir may contain essential oils and resins that, in addition to the mulch's risk for obstruction, may produce gastrointestinal irritation (including drooling, vomiting and loss of appetite) and occasionally even minor central nervous system depression if ingested in large quantities. Dogs are especially attracted to cocoa bean shell mulch with its pleasant chocolate smell. Consuming large amounts can lead to signs similar to chocolate poisoning, including vomiting and diarrhea, and in cases where very large amounts have been consumed, muscle tremors or more serious neurologic or cardiac signs may occur.

Because your dog has demonstrated an attraction to mulch, he'll need to be supervised when spending time in mulched areas of your yard, and you may want to consider modifying his behavior to teach him not to eat mulch or other non-food items. Please consult our Virtual Behaviorist for tips about training your pup to stay away from toxic items.

I want to put water and non-toxic antifreeze in the base of my basketball net to prevent it from falling over. If the base ever cracks and the fluid escapes, could it hurt my dogs?

- Brad

Dear Brad,

It's important to keep in mind that no antifreeze product is without potential risk. There are several antifreeze products on the market that are labeled as low- or non-toxic. They are certainly less toxic than traditional antifreeze and usually contain propylene glycol or methyl alcohol, but they aren't truly non-toxic. Both propylene glycol and methyl alcohol have the potential to cause gastrointestinal irritation, central nervous system depression, and even death from respiratory failure in severe cases.

As a safer alternative, you might consider using sand rather than antifreeze to weigh down your basketball net. If you do use a low-tox product and your net base springs a leak, clean up any fluid immediately. And no matter the type of antifreeze, keep any unused product in a secure place away from curious pets.

My kitty loves to roll around and play in fabric softener sheets. Could they be harmful to him?

- Monique R.

Potentially yes, Monique. Fabric softener products can contain detergents known as cationics that have the potential to produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, particularly when the sheets haven’t yet been used. These effects include drooling, appetite loss, oral burns and, in some cases, possibly even ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract.

While dogs and other animals can also be affected, cats are especially sensitive to cationics. As such, we would advise not to let your feline friend play with fabric softener sheets—whether fresh or used.

I refrain from using insecticides in the home since they can be harmful to children and pets. But I recently came across an “eco-friendly” insecticide that claims to be safe for use around animals. Is it?

- Andrea

Dear Andrea,

Many such products contain essential oils, which have the potential to cause eye, skin and gastrointestinal irritation, as well as central nervous system depression. It’s important to keep in mind that while there may be certain benefits to using botanical products, natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe. In fact, many plants, animals and other organisms found in nature can be highly toxic. Therefore any insecticide—natural or not—needs to be used per label directions to avoid accidental overexposure.

I noticed your avocado information in the recent issue of ASPCA News Alert. Do you have any information about the safety of avocado in pet food?

- Nicole K.

Good question, Nicole. As you read in News Alert, avocado leaves, fruit, seeds and bark contain a toxic principle known as Persin. The Guatemalan variety, a common one found in stores, appears to be the most problematic. Other strains of avocado can have different degrees of toxic potential.

Avocado is sometimes included in pet foods for nutritional benefit. We would generally not expect avocado meal or oil present in commercial pet foods to pose a hazard to dogs and cats, but we advise against giving avocado flesh or peel to dogs and cats, as mild stomach upset may occur if the animal eats a significant amount. Ingestion of the pit can lead to obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, which is a serious situation requiring urgent veterinary care.

Are paintballs toxic to pet birds?

- Melody A.

Paintballs do have the potential to be toxic to all animal species, including birds. But due to their indiscriminate eating habits and consumption of large volumes of paintballs, we have encountered problems mainly in dogs, Melody. The effects from ingesting paintballs can range from vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors to weakness, fever, elevated heart rate, blindness, seizures and, in severe cases, death.

Based on the toxic potential of paintballs, we recommend that pets not be allowed to accompany their owners during paintball games, and that pellets be stored in areas where animals cannot reach them.

My friends and I are looking to build a paintball gun course on my property, but I have a herd of more than 50 goats. What could happen if a goat eats a paintball?

- Nicklaus R.

Paintballs are potentially toxic to all animals, Nicklaus, including goats. If consumed in large enough amounts, the results can range from vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors to weakness, fever, elevated heart rate, blindness, seizures, and, in severe cases, death.

Based on the toxic potential of paintballs, we recommend that animals do not accompany their owners during paintball games, and that pellets be stored in areas where animals cannot reach them.

My friend and I are having a debate over the toxic potential of pennies. I heard that pennies before 1980 are poisonous to pets, but she says it is those minted after 1980. Who is right?

- Joan C.

Your friend is almost correct, Joan! United States pennies minted after 1982 contain 99.2 percent zinc by weight (the remaining 0.8 percent is copper), whereas pennies minted prior to 1982 only contain 5 percent zinc. This is a concern because with ingestions of significant amounts, zinc can cause damage to the kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and red blood cells. Due to their high zinc content, pennies minted after 1982 are considered to be potentially toxic if ingested by pets.

Could recently poured concrete be harmful to my golden retriever if she were to come into contact with it?

- Suzanne D.

That depends, Suzanne. Fresh, still-wet concrete can be very irritating or even corrosive to skin and the gastrointestinal tract. Once the concrete has cured, we would not expect problems for your dog.

I recently bought my dog a bag of doggie chocolate drops, but when I looked at the ingredients, I saw that they contain cocoa powder. Are these dog treats truly safe?

- Ashley G.

Ashley, it is wonderful that you are watching out for substances that are potentially harmful to your canine companion! The amount of cocoa contained in these drops is very small, so we would not anticipate any problems for your dog. Should he decide to help himself to the entire package, the most we would expect to see would be minor gastrointestinal upset. So feel free to offer your canine friend a couple of these treats without worrying about chocolate poisoning.

Cocoa bean mulch is popular in our neighborhood. Is this toxic to dogs?

- Julie M.

It depends, Julie. Dogs who consume enough cocoa bean shell mulch could potentially develop signs similar to that of chocolate poisoning, including vomiting and diarrhea. In cases where very large amounts of mulch have been consumed, muscle tremors or other more serious neurological signs could occur. To date, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has not received any cases involving animal deaths due to cocoa mulch ingestion.

One key point to remember is that some dogs, particularly those with indiscriminate eating habits, can be attracted to any kind of organic matter. If you have a dog who tends to be, shall we say, less than finicky, it is important that your dog not be left unsupervised or allowed in areas where such materials are being used.

If a pet accidentally ate a cigarette, could it be harmful?

- Marla D

Cigarettes and other tobacco products can be dangerous for pets, Marla. These products contain nicotine, which has the potential to produce severe vomiting, depression, elevated heart rate, a drop in blood pressure, seizures, respiratory failure and, in severe cases, even death. Based on this information, it is advisable to keep tobacco products out of your pet’s reach. If an accidental ingestion occurs, seek veterinary help immediately.

Is 100% peppermint oil harmful to dogs? If not, does it offer any nutritional benefits to canines?

- Luana

Dear Luana,

Oils such as peppermint can cause oral, skin and gastrointestinal irritation—if swallowed in large quantities, central nervous system depression may occur as well. Due to its potential for problems, we would not recommend giving peppermint oil to your dog. If you’re looking for a supplement to support your dog's health, we advise communicating with your local veterinarian to get a recommendation for an appropriate product.

We have a pewter wine bucket that we’ve started to use as a water bowl for our miniature schnauzers. Is there a concern about the metal leaching into the water and causing them harm?

- Steve

Dear Steve,

Pewter is comprised mostly of tin, which is relatively harmless, and other metals such as copper, antimony, bismuth or lead. These metals generally won’t leach from the bowl into your schnauzers’ water because they—particularly lead—require an acidic environment in order to decompose.

My Siamese cat loves to lick and chew on plastic bags, although we try to keep them away from him. Could this be bad for our cat?

- Dawn B.

Chewing on plastic bags could pose a hazard to your cat, Dawn, as pieces of the bag could become lodged in your cat’s throat and obstruct his airway. Because of this, we do not advise allowing your cat to chew or play with these bags, and please take care to store them in a secure area out of his reach.

I have heard that homemade play dough could make dogs ill. Is this true?

- Dawn

Yes, Dawn, this is true. The ingestion of play dough, depending on the formulation and circumstances of exposure, could potentially produce sodium or salt poisoning, and could also result in a gastrointestinal tract blockage if a large enough quantity is consumed. Homemade varieties tend to contain larger amounts of salt than commercial ones do, so the risk of poisoning can be higher. Because of this, we recommend that pet owners keep pets away while working with or making homemade play dough, and to also store the dough in a secure container out of their pets' reach.

I have polyurethane sealant on my floor. As the old portions flake off, it sometimes gets on my cat’s fur. Could this be harmful to him if he cleans himself?

- Marjorie T.

Most likely not, Marjorie. Dried polyurethane varnish or sealants generally do not pose a potential problem to pets. Still, we would advise brushing them off your cat whenever possible, because the flakes could cause minor stomach upset.

I recently noticed my dog eating rabbit feces off the ground. What effect could this have on her?

- Kim B.

Kim, the consumption of fecal matter can cause bacterial-related gastrointestinal problems, and may also transmit parasites such as worms and certain diseases. Therefore, it is a good idea to discourage your dog from ingesting rabbit feces. To help curb this habit, you may wish to bring your dog outside in the backyard on a leash. There you will have an opportunity to teach her that eating rabbit droppings is a no-no.

My neighbor is putting one inch squares of rat poison smeared with peanut butter on his front lawn. My dog occasionally gets out of the yard, and I fear he will eat the poison. Is there a law against endangering domestic animals?

- Betsy

While laws can vary from state to state, and even by county or city, in general there is no specific ordinance against putting bait on one's property. It's typically up to pet parents to keep their animals from accessing a neighbor's yard, where they may come into contact with poisonous materials.

Nonetheless, you may want to check with your local law enforcement officers―they can help you identify the ordinances specific to your community.

Is it safe to feed my dog rawhide bones?

- Robert B.

The answer to your question, Robert, depends largely on your dog’s chewing habits. While many dogs enjoy nibbling on rawhide, some tend to swallow it—and this could potentially pose a foreign body obstruction in your pet's gastrointestinal tract if large enough pieces are swallowed.

If you do decide to offer rawhide, you may want to supply your dog with only limited quantities, and take care to dispose of any pieces that get chewed down to a size that could be swallowed whole. There are now many alternatives to rawhide chews, so you might want to ask your local veterinarian and/or pet supply store to help you find a chew that you can feel comfortable giving your dog.

Are reed diffusers toxic to cats and dogs?

- Stephanie

Many liquid potpourri and reed diffuser products contain essential oils and detergents—also called cationics—that can cause central nervous system depression as well as gastrointestinal irritation, including drooling, loss of appetite, and in severe cases, oral burns or ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract. While cats are especially sensitive to cationics, dogs and other animals can be affected as well. The ASPCA advises keeping your reed diffusers in a location that is not accessible to your cat and dog.

I am a rescuer that places trap-neuter-release cats in barn situations so they have a safe place to live. One lady who is interested in taking some cats has a rat problem in her barn, and wants to use rat poison, as well as the cats, to get rid of the rats. Could the poison be a problem for the cats?

- Janis L.

Janis, we advise exercising great caution when using any chemical product to eradicate rodents. If an animal ingests a rodenticide, potentially serious or even life-threatening problems can result, which may include bleeding, seizures, or even damage to the kidneys and other vital organs. One possible alternative to chemical rodenticides would be the use of live traps to capture and relocate rodents.

If you choose to use a chemical rodenticide, it is important to place the product in areas that are completely inaccessible to companion animals. As there are many different types of rodenticide, it is important to have the container or package information readily available when obtaining veterinary help should an accidental exposure occur. This way, a proper identification of the product’s ingredients can be made for appropriate treatment.

People often ask what could happen if a pet eats a rodent who has been poisoned by a chemical rodenticide. In general, poisonings resulting from the consumption of rats or other rodents who have ingested most commercially available rodenticides are not typically a concern in most companion animals, unless their staple diet consists mainly of rodents. (With cats who are on "rodent patrol" in a barn, however, this could possibly be the case.) The greater concern generally involves the potential risk of disease transmission or gastrointestinal problems from bacteria as a result of eating dead wildlife. Because of this, we typically do not advocate allowing pets to consume rats, mice or other wild creatures.

I’ve heard that rat poison doesn’t really affect cats the way it affects dogs. Why is this?

- Anna S.

Anna, I’m afraid that what you’ve heard is not true. If a cat, dog or any other animal ingests enough of a rodenticide, potentially serious problems may result. These may include bleeding, seizures, or even damage to the kidneys and other vital organs. Generally speaking, cats are just as susceptible to rodenticide poisoning as other pets.

One possible alternative to chemical rodenticides is live traps to capture and relocate rodents. If you choose to use a chemical rodenticide, it is important to place the product in an area that is completely inaccessible to companion animals. Should an accidental exposure occur, it is important to have the container or package information readily available when obtaining veterinary help, as there are many different types of rodenticides. That way, a proper identification of the product’s ingredients can be made and the appropriate treatment can be given.

A few days ago my pug found a chlorine tablet in the backyard. She was treated and is now fine, but I would like to know what could have happened to her.

- Melissa S.

We’re very glad to hear that your pug is doing fine after her exposure to chlorine, Melissa! What could have happened to her depends on the amount and concentration of chlorine ingested, as well as other factors. Exposure to products with large amounts of chlorine could potentially result in significant irritation and damage to skin, eyes, lungs, the Gl tract and other mucous membranes, depending on the route of exposure. In severe cases, ulceration or even perforation of the GI tract is possible.

Is the water in our Christmas tree stand poisonous to our dog and cat?

- Daniel G.

Not really, Daniel, but it could have other negative effects. For example, sometimes people add preservatives to Christmas tree water that may contain fertilizers. While these preservatives are not poisonous, they can cause stomach upset. Stagnant tree water can also be a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea. It's a good idea to make sure a skirt or a cloth covers the bottom of your tree to deter your dog and cat from drinking the water.

Can cedar bark shavings be used in the bottom of my birds’ cages?

- Corrine P.

Cedar is generally not a good choice for bird cage liner, as the aromatic fumes from the essential oils can be irritating to their respiratory tracts. Ingestion of significant amounts of these oils can also produce gastrointestinal irritation and potentially even central nervous system depression in avians. Some alternatives to consider for lining your bird's cage include commercially available bird cage liners, plain paper or brown paper bags cut to size.

My dogs have a terrible habit of “snacking” from the cat’s litter box. I use a clumping litter, and am concerned it could cause problems for my dogs. Do you have any information on this topic?

- Sue C.

Many scoopable cat litters contain bentonite clay and/or silica. The bentonite component of kitty litter, sodium bentonite is a naturally occurring clay mineral that is considered to be biologically inert when ingested. Silica is also a physically and chemically inert substance, and is a major component found in ordinary sand. Silica is also used as a moisture-absorbing agent in the little packets found in shoe boxes, medications and some foods. In our experience, pets ingesting small amounts of silica gel may develop only mild gastrointestinal upset, if any signs develop at all.

Cats may ingest small amounts of litter when grooming themselves after using the litter box, and these amounts pass through the digestive tract easily without problems. However, if an animal consumes a very large amount of litter (as can happen when a dog "cleans out" the litter box), gastrointestinal upset, constipation or, in rare cases, intestinal obstruction could potentially occur. In addition, consuming fecal material may cause bacterial-related gastrointestinal problems. It is a good idea to discourage your dogs from helping themselves to the litter box by placing it in an area that is out of their reach, but still accessible to your cat.

My friend recently told me that kitty litter containing silica is poisonous to cats. Is this true?

- Susan G.

Silica-based cat litter has recently been the subject of discussion on the Internet, with some claiming that it is toxic and causes respiratory illness in cats.

Silica is a physically and chemically inert substance and is a major component in ordinary sand. Silica has many uses, including as an absorbing agent in cat litter. It’s also used as a moisture-absorbing agent in those little packets found in shoe boxes, medications and some foods. In our experience, pets ingesting silica may develop only mild gastrointestinal upset—if any signs develop at all. Silica, therefore, is not considered to be toxic.

Many scoopable cat litters that contain silica are processed in such a way to remove as much of the fine dust as possible. If you find that you or your cat is particularly sensitive to airborne dust particles, you may wish to consider using an alternate form of litter.

Are silica gel desiccant packages toxic to pets?

- Cheryl S.

Cheryl, silica gel is used to absorb moisture in many different products, and is usually packaged in plastic cylinders or paper packets. You’ve probably seen those little packets that say “DESSICANT—DO NOT EAT!” in medications, leather goods, vitamins and even some pasta products. Silica gel is also used in certain cat litters to absorb moisture.

While it is indeed true that it is not meant for consumption, silica gel usually produces only mild stomach upset, which typically resolves with minimal to no treatment. If very large quantities are eaten, however, such as with ingestions of multiple packets or mouthfuls of kitty litter, intestinal obstruction is possible—especially in very small animals.

Is sorbitol dangerous for dogs? It’s listed as an ingredient in my bichon/poodle mix’s toothpaste.

- Brandon

Dear Brandon,

Sorbitol is a plant-based sugar alcohol that’s used as a sweetener in many products, including sugar-free foods, laxatives and other medications. Due to its laxative capabilities, loose stools or diarrhea can occur if consumed in large doses. However, the amount of sorbitol in pet toothpaste used for brushing your pooch’s teeth is not likely to be an issue.

Are spot-on flea products that contain Fipronil safe for pets?

- Linda

Dear Linda,

Fipronil has a very wide margin of safety—large quantities of Fipronil would have to be involved to produce negative effects in dogs and cats. In present concentrations, we don’t expect toxicity problems from Fipronil or S-methoprene, an insect growth regulator that’s also present in many flea and tick products.

As with any flea control product, it’s important to consult with your vet to find the most appropriate program for your pet. It’s also essential to follow label instructions for correct use. For example, if the product is for dogs only, do not apply it to cats or other pets. If the label tells you to apply the spot-on liquid between the shoulder blades and at the base of the tail, don't place it in one spot, since irritation may occur. The opposite holds true as well—if instructions state to apply it in one spot, spreading the product in multiple places may reduce its effectiveness.

Like people, certain animals can have allergies or sensitivities to topical products. If your pet has preexisting skin problems or wounds, or has been known to react negatively to products applied to the skin, it's best to talk with your vet to make sure that a topical insecticide is the right course of treatment.

My husband wants to make a cage for my Quaker parrot using milled steel. What types of metal will harm my bird?

- Angela M.

Metals containing zinc, cadmium or lead should not be used in the construction of bird cages or other pet habitats, due to the potential risk for poisoning if the metal is chewed on—or if lead dust is inhaled in significant quantities. Milled stainless steel that does not contain these metals would not be expected to pose a risk to your Quaker parrot—you can tell your husband to begin construction!

I’m planning on spreading sulfur around my house and fence. Could this harm my Shih Tzu?

- Gina C.

Depending on the concentration and circumstances of exposure, sulfur can be an irritant to a pet’s mucous membranes and skin. If it is ingested, however, sulfur can convert to sulfate in the gastrointestinal tract; sulfate has the potential to act like an acid and cause significant irritation—or even ulceration in severe cases—as well as central nervous system or cardiac effects. Because of this, we would recommend keeping your Shih Tzu away from areas of your lawn treated with sulfur until the product has dissipated or has been thoroughly watered.

I understand that the sweetener xylitol is toxic to pets, but what about other sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame?

- Kristin Z.

Great question, Kristin. Sweeteners such as sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (NutraSweet) and saccharin (Sweet N' Low) are not known to cause problems in dogs or other pets, as the sweetener xylitol has been shown to do. However, they could potentially cause mild gastrointestinal upset if eaten in significant quantities, so it is still a good idea to refrain from offering pets such sweeteners.

I work in a pet store, and a customer told me that tea tree oil, often used for flea control, can be toxic to pets. Could I get more information about this?

- Laura G.

Tea tree, or Melaleuca alternifolia oil, does have toxic potential, depending on the circumstances of exposure. Clinical effects that may occur following dermal exposure to significant amounts of tea tree oil include loss of coordination, muscle weakness, depression, and possibly even a severe drop in body temperature, collapse and liver damage. If the oil is ingested, potential effects include vomiting, diarrhea and, in some cases, seizures. If inhalation of the oil occurs, aspiration pneumonia is possible.

When it comes to flea control, we always recommend that pet owners consult with their veterinarian to get advice on the proper product to use, based on the individual pet's species, age, size and health history. Additionally, reading the label first and following the product’s directions exactly are key in helping to avoid any potentially problematic situation.

Is there a humane way to repel or catch rodents that doesn’t put our dog at risk?

- Kat

Dear Kat,

A good alternative to using poison, glue traps or other forms of rodent control is a humane, live trap. You can purchase these traps at your local pest control service, and they can be baited with peanut butter, grains or nuts. When the rat tries to access the food, the trapdoor closes, leaving the rat trapped but unharmed.

It’s important to check the traps often, as rodents have high metabolic rates, which can lead to starvation and/or fatal dehydration. After the rat is caught, he should be relocated away from your home—in a park or wooded area—so he will not return.

We recently had our water tested, and while we learned that we have a small amount of arsenic in it (0.01 ppm), we’ve been told that it is still safe for us to drink. I’m concerned about my dogs, though.

- Paul R.

The maximum recommended arsenic level in drinking water for animals is 1 ppm (parts per million), according to the reference Mineral Levels in Animal Health by R. Puls. As the established level of arsenic in your drinking water is 100 times less than this, we would not anticipate problems from your pets drinking from your water supply.

I understand that garlic is poisonous for dogs, but why is it often an ingredient in dog treats?

- Michelle S.

Good question, Michelle. Garlic does have toxic potential to pets, and is generally more potent than onion, also a member of the Allium species, in causing changes in red blood cells in dogs and cats. This is true in raw, cooked or powdered forms. In theory, "deodorized" garlic is allegedly less toxic, since the disulfides, responsible for both the odor and the toxicity, are usually largely removed.

Even at low levels of exposure to garlic, some change in red blood cells is likely; it is typically only when a significant number of red blood cells are altered that their oxygen-carrying capacity is noticeably compromised and clinical signs develop. Generally, it takes either a fairly large single ingestion or chronic exposure. These effects are also somewhat more likely to be seen in cats, as their red blood cells have shorter life spans and they're more likely to have bone marrow issues. However, the possibility exists that some dogs may also be genetically more susceptible to problems from garlic ingestions.

The lowest observed effect level in dogs in the scientific literature that we are aware of is 2.5 mg/kg of encapsulated garlic powder; slow heart rates and increased urination were seen. For comparison, a 20-pound dog consuming 1000 mg of garlic powder is exposed to a dose of 110 mg/kg.

The bottom line, Michelle, is that we do not definitively know at what dose any given dog may experience problems. An occasional low dose, such as those found in most commercial pet foods or treats, would not likely cause problems. A conservative approach might be to avoid exposure to more concentrated garlic-based products.

I read somewhere that toothpaste is toxic for dogs. Is that true? I’ve put toothpaste in my Chihuahua’s mouth to get rid of his bad breath.

- Rhonda C.

Dear Rhonda,

The answer to your question really depends on what kind of toothpaste you’re using. Human toothpaste isn’t recommended for dogs because they will likely swallow the paste, which contains fluoride that can cause gastrointestinal irritation or more significant problems in large amounts.

Toothpaste formulated for pets is generally safe. Minor stomach upset could occur if your pet swallows more than what is normally used for brushing. Pet dental products that contain an ingredient known as xylitol should be used carefully and only according to label directions. When ingested in amounts that exceed the recommended per label dose, xylitol can cause a sudden drop in a dog's blood sugar, resulting in weakness, tremors and seizures as well as the potential for liver failure. Should an accidental over ingestion occur, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 for immediate assistance.

I was wondering if tinsel is harmful for dogs. My dog eats everything in sight, and tinsel tends to get all over the place. Should I avoid using it?

- Priscilla M.

Tinsel is not known to be poisonous to pets, Priscilla, but it is still a potential hazard. If swallowed, tinsel could pose a risk for choking or intestinal obstruction. Based on this, we do not advise allowing your pets to have access to items decorated with tinsel. You may also wish to consider not using it in your home at all.

My two puppies seem to love to chew on and ingest cardboard. Is this dangerous for them?

- Alcinda W.

Ingesting cardboard could indeed be potentially harmful to your pups, Alcinda—particularly if large enough amounts are swallowed. Large pieces could become lodged in their throats, posing a choking hazard, or lead to an intestinal obstruction. Because of this, we recommend not allowing your puppies to chew on cardboard—or, for that matter, anything other than a pet-safe chew toy.

Our dogs frequently visit the area around our parrot and bird cages, snuffing up and eating bird seed hulls—and probably the occasional droppings. We clean the area regularly, but are concerned about health problems in our dogs. Should we worry?

- Kristi H.

Kristi, most commercial bird seed and the occasional dropping from a healthy bird would not be expected to cause problems beyond minor stomach upset—if consumed by a dog or cat in small quantities. If your dog were to ingest a very large amount of seeds, however—such as from a knocked-over feeder, or if he had access to an entire bag—this could lead to an intestinal impaction or obstruction. If you feel that either of your dogs may be capable of doing this, then it would be a good idea to make sure the feeder is high enough to be out of their reach, and that any remaining seed be kept in a secure container in an area not accessible to them.

I have a bird feeder in my backyard, and my dogs often smell around the area where the birds leave droppings. Will ingestion of the droppings make my dogs ill?

- Nicole

Dear Nicole,

While bird droppings are not considered to be toxic or significantly harmful, they may contain bacteria or other organisms that cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea.

The bottom line? It's a good idea to discourage your dogs from munching on droppings, but should they manage to snag a few, there is no cause for major concern.

One of my cats loves the beeswax that I use in jewelry making. I’ve never seen her eat a piece, but would it be bad if she did?

- Shannon B.

While beeswax is not known to be poisonous, Shannon, it could cause gastrointestinal upsets, such as vomiting and diarrhea, if eaten. An intestinal obstruction could even result if large pieces are swallowed. Because there is a risk of possible ingestion, we do not recommend allowing your cat to play with beeswax.

Is puppy food that contains avocado meal or avocado oil recommended for dogs?

- Maria

Dear Maria,

Avocado is sometimes included in pet foods for nutritional benefit, and while avocado is quite toxic to birds, we would generally not expect avocado meal or oil present in commercial pet foods to pose a hazard to dogs and cats. Therefore, we see no reason why you shouldn't continue to feed your puppy this diet.

Yesterday, my neighbors spilled some antifreeze on their driveway, which they washed off. They were kind enough to let us know what happened, but how long do I need to keep my pets away before it isn’t hazardous any more?

- Caryn D.

Good question, Caryn! First, kudos to your neighbors for being responsible by alerting you to the spill. Once the area has been allowed to dry and there are no puddles, your pets should be able to reenter, as the ethylene glycol antifreeze would no longer be accessible for consumption.

Are air purifiers with ozone producers safe to use around my hamster and parakeet?

- Kathy D.

Good question, Kathy. The potential does exist for pets to develop breathing difficulties if they are left in an enclosed room with ozone-producing machines. Based on this, we would advise not allowing pets in any closed environment when such machines are in use. And due to their unique respiratory physiology, birds should not be housed in any environment where ozone-producing machines are used.

People Foods

My husky/terrier mix loves pretzels, but I’ve heard that salt is bad for dogs. Why is this?

- Stephen M.

Stephen, while a mini-pretzel or two is not likely to pose a problem for your dog, large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning. This can result in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death, in severe cases. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid feeding your dog foods that are high in salt.

My adult dog and puppy both like to eat raw potatoes. Is this unhealthy for them?

- Shannon S.

That depends, Shannon. While the ripe tubers are not considered to be toxic, the green parts are. Potatoes and other Solanum species, including the tomato, are members of the nightshade family of plants. These plants contain solanine and other toxic alkaloids which, if eaten in large enough amounts, can produce drooling, severe gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea, loss of appetite, drowsiness, central nervous system depression, confusion, behavioral changes, weakness, dilated pupils and slowed heart rate. Therefore, a bit of ripe potato here and there shouldn’t cause any problems for your dogs, but you should be careful that they do not consume the rest of the plant.

Is it safe for dogs to eat popcorn?

- Melissa C.

That depends, Melissa. Unbuttered, unsalted popcorn is not known to contain components that could make pets sick, but popcorn could potentially become lodged in the throat, creating an upper airway obstruction. Owners who wish to offer their pets popcorn should consider this risk beforehand.

Are pistachios and peanuts harmful to dogs?

- John

Pistachios and peanuts are not considered to be toxic, but all nuts contain fats, which can cause gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea. Foods with high fat content can also produce an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. Many commercial nuts are heavily salted, which poses a risk for the development of sodium ion toxicosis in large quantities.

The bottom line? An occasional peanut or pistachio is not likely to be a problem for your pet, but we wouldn’t recommend feeding him a significant amount of nuts.

I’ve heard that grapes and raisins are poisonous to dogs. Yes or no?

- Sheila C.

Yes, Sheila. At the current time, we know that grapes and raisins appear to cause renal failure in dogs who’ve ingested large amounts. However, we have not determined with certainty the toxic component, or the exact mechanism that causes renal failure. It is also not clear if only certain dogs are affected, or if long-term ingestions can lead to the same effects that a large one-time ingestion can. Because there are still many unknowns regarding the toxic potential of grapes and raisins, it is advisable not to give grapes or raisins to dogs in any amount.

My family would like to give our shepherd/husky mix a bit of fresh cooked shrimp. Is this okay?

- Gail C.

Gail, a small amount of cooked shellfish, such as lobster or shrimp, should not pose a problem for a healthy dog. However, any pet can get an upset stomach from consuming foods that are not part of his or her normal diet. So if your dog exhibits vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal discomfort, discontinue offering the shellfish, and contact your vet if the signs become persistent.

Are spices such as mace, paprika and turmeric poisonous to pets?

- Rafael B.

They could be, Rafael, depending on the circumstances of exposure. Mace is derived from the nutmeg plant (Mtristica fragrans); both mace and nutmeg have actually gained popularity as street drugs, due to the psychological effects that are produced from the spices' volatile oil. If eaten in large enough amounts, the oil could cause vomiting and abdominal pain, as well as central nervous system excitation—usually followed by profound drowsiness several hours later.

Both paprika (Capsicum annuum) and turmeric (Curcuma longa) contain irritants (capsaicin and curcumin, respectively) that can cause irritation to the skin, gastrointestinal tract and other mucous membranes. Because of the potential for problems, we would advise keeping these and other spices out of your pets’ reach.

Is sorbitol dangerous for dogs? It’s listed as an ingredient in my bichon/poodle mix’s toothpaste.

- Brandon

Dear Brandon,

Sorbitol is a plant-based sugar alcohol that’s used as a sweetener in many products, including sugar-free foods, laxatives and other medications. Due to its laxative capabilities, loose stools or diarrhea can occur if consumed in large doses. However, the amount of sorbitol in pet toothpaste used for brushing your pooch’s teeth is not likely to be an issue.

Is spinach poisonous to cats? I looked at several websites and found conflicting information.

- Lauryl B.

Good question, Lauryl. There is currently no solid data pertaining to feline ingestions of spinach, but we do know that it contains a small amount of calcium oxalates. While a leaf or two may not be an issue for a healthy adult cat, chronic and/or large ingestions of spinach could potentially cause crystal formation in the urinary tract. (And P.S., Because of this, spinach should be avoided completely in any cat with a history of urinary problems, including infections, crystaluria and kidney disease.)

My husband loves to eat New York strip steaks and insists on feeding the fat to our dog. Is this harmful?

- Michelle S.

Yes, Michelle, consuming this kind of fat can be potentially harmful to your dog. While dogs do need certain types of fats in their diet, the consumption of significant amounts, such as the trimmings from a steak, either in one sitting or as a chronic habit, could potentially cause vomiting and diarrhea, or even a life-threatening inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. Because of this, we recommend that you avoid feeding fat trimmings to your dog.

I understand that the sweetener xylitol is toxic to pets, but what about other sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame?

- Kristin Z.

Great question, Kristin. Sweeteners such as sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (NutraSweet) and saccharin (Sweet N' Low) are not known to cause problems in dogs or other pets, as the sweetener xylitol has been shown to do. However, they could potentially cause mild gastrointestinal upset if eaten in significant quantities, so it is still a good idea to refrain from offering pets such sweeteners.

Are table and wine grapes toxic to dogs?

- Cynthia

Dear Cynthia,

Yes, table, wine and any other type of grape that belongs to the plant genus Vitis is considered toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure. We advise keeping grapes and raisins well out of the way of your canine friends.

Is it OK to put pepper on my dog’s food?

- Casey J.

Casey, peppers contain an irritant substance known as capsaicin, which can be irritating to the skin, eyes, nose, and gastrointestinal tract. Because of this, we would not recommend putting pepper on your pet's food.

My Lab loves oranges. Are small amounts harmful to her?

- Wendy B

Not necessarily, Wendy. It’s true that the stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, limonin and oils, and these can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system (CNS) depression if they are ingested in significant amounts. But if your Lab eats one segment of an orange here and there, it shouldn’t cause her any problems beyond a possible minor stomach upset.

Since I don't use pesticides, I want to sprinkle nutmeg on my kitchen counter to deter ants. Will the spice hurt my cats if they lick it?

- Pam

Strange as it may seem, nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) has actually gained popularity as a street drug because of the psychological effects that are produced from the spice's volatile oil. If eaten in large amounts, this oil can cause vomiting and abdominal pain as well as central nervous system excitation. These initial symptoms are usually followed by profound drowsiness several hours after consumption.

Taking a lick or two of ground nutmeg is not likely to pose a serious problem for your cats; however, we'd still recommend using caution to prevent them from ingesting problematic quantities.

I’ve read in several places that mushrooms are dangerous for cats. I know many types of mushrooms are dangerous to humans as well, but are human-safe mushrooms also cat-safe?

- Matthew

Dear Matthew,

Mushrooms that are available in the grocery store for consumption are not considered to pose a health hazard for pets, including cats. However, any food that’s not part of a normal diet can lead to stomach upset, which is why it's a good idea to only offer small portions as an occasional treat. Because wild mushrooms can be tricky to distinguish, and certain poisonous varieties mimic safe ones, we would not recommend offering your cat wild mushrooms.

In the summer issue of ASPCA Action, I read that I should avoid giving milk to my pets. Why?

- Chuck

Unless they are spoiled or moldy, milk, cheese and other dairy foods are not considered to be poisonous to pets. However, many pets’ digestive systems cannot tolerate dairy foods very well. This can result in vomiting and diarrhea, which in severe cases could lead to inflammation of the pancreas. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to check with your veterinarian before offering any “people food” to your pets.

We have two Miniature Dachshunds and Min Pin Mix puppies who love to eat cantaloupe and watermelon. Can the fruit hurt them?

- Rachel

Dear Rachel,

The flesh of cantaloupe is considered edible, and there's currently no data demonstrating that it has the potential to produce effects beyond minor gastrointestinal irritation in dogs. An occasional small portion of cantaloupe as a treat should not pose a problem, but if you see any signs of gastrointestinal irritation—such as loss of appetite, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea—please discontinue feeding the fruit to your dogs.

My Yorkie likes eating lunch meat. Is it OK to let him have some?

- Ashley D.

We generally do not advocate the feeding of human table foods to animal companions, as these foods typically do not meet pets' nutritional needs—and some could even be harmful. While most luncheon meats are not considered to be poisonous (as long as they aren't spoiled or moldy), they do contain high levels of sodium, nitrates and fat. Any food that is not part of an animal's normal diet could potentially cause gastrointestinal upset or lead to other problems, such as pancreatitis. If you still wish to offer "people food" as a treat for your pet, we advise talking with your veterinarian first.

I have a cocker spaniel who loves to eat lemon seeds. Is this harmful for her?

- Sandra W.

The stems, leaves, peels fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, limonin and oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression, if ingested in significant amounts. However, the consumption of one or two seeds here and there would typically not be expected to cause serious problems beyond perhaps minor stomach upset.

Is it okay for dogs and cats to consume liquids other than water? Would small doses of juice, iced tea or lemonade hurt them?

- Chet

Dear Chet,

The beverages you mention are not likely to pose a problem if given in small quantities—such as a lap or two—as an occasional treat. Mild stomach upset may occur, especially in animals with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts. If large amounts of juice or other beverages are consumed, the likelihood of stomach irritation may increase.

Ice

I have a beagle mix, and I was wondering if ice is dangerous to dogs. My mom read many years ago that ice is dangerous because it changes the dog’s temperature too quickly.

- Kim F.

The answer to your question, Kim, really depends on the circumstances involved. For example, since mammals are warm-blooded, nibbling on an ice cube or two is not likely to have any impact on an animal's body temperature. This means that their bodies have ways to keep their temperature levels normal in most situations. But, if a pet is placed in an icy tub of water, is left outside in the cold for too long or is otherwise exposed to too much ice for an extended period of time, the body's temperature can become unstable and a dangerous drop in temperature, known as hypothermia, can occur.

The bottom line? Offering your beagle mix a few bits of ice here and there is not an issue. Just don't feed her huge amounts of ice or expose her to environmental situations that could cause her temperature to drop.

I’m planting basil, oregano, lavender, sage, lemon mint and rosemary in pots in my home. But my cat likes to chew on plants—will these herbs hurt him?

- Melissa

Dear Melissa,

Many herbs, including those you mentioned but with the notable exception of garlic, onion and other plants, are considered to be non-toxic and edible in small amounts. Some of these plants do contain varied amounts of volatile oils, resins and/or tannins, which can all irritate the GI tract. The oils can even cause central nervous system depression if consumed in large amounts. The bottom line? A nibble or two of an herb such as lavender, rosemary or sage is not likely to be an issue—but don’t let your cat munch on these herbs in large quantities.

Can dogs drink green tea?

- Alice E.

Alice, while we generally do not advocate offering people food to pets, decaffeinated green tea can cause minor stomach upset if ingested, and it may still be possible for mild hyperactivity to occur from large ingestions. The bottom line? An occasional lick or two of a green tea beverage (provided there are no herbs or xylitol added) should not pose a problem—but we would not recommend letting your dog consume more than that.

My aunt puts bacon or sausage grease and fat drippings on her dogs’ food; she says it’s good for them. Is this true? If it’s not good for us, how can it be good for them?

- Theresa B.

Good question, Theresa. While dogs do need certain types of fats in their diet, the consumption of significant amounts of bacon or sausage grease (either in one sitting or habitually) could potentially cause vomiting and diarrhea—or even a life-threatening inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In addition, these cured meats contain a lot of sodium, which could also be harmful in large quantities. You might suggest that your aunt talk with her veterinarian if she feels that her dogs may be in need of a nutritional supplement.

I know that grapes are toxic to dogs, but how about grapeseed oil?

- Jackie S.

Good question, Jackie. At this time, we have no data indicating problems from exposure to grapeseed extract or oil, as we have seen with grapes or raisins. Most nutritional supplements and other products containing grapeseed oil or extract contain relatively small amounts, and so far we have not seen serious problems with canines.

I’ve heard that grapes and raisins are poisonous to dogs. Yes or no?

- Sheila C.

Yes, Sheila. At the current time, we know that grapes and raisins appear to cause renal failure in dogs who’ve ingested large amounts. However, we have not determined with certainty the toxic component, or the exact mechanism that causes renal failure. It is also not clear if only certain dogs are affected, or if long-term ingestions can lead to the same effects that a large one-time ingestion can. Because there are still many unknowns regarding the toxic potential of grapes and raisins, it is advisable not to give grapes or raisins to dogs in any amount.

Is it safe to give french fries to our Labrador retriever? She looks forward to one or two whenever we go to McDonald’s.

- Judi B.

An occasional nibble or two of a fast-food french fry should not pose a serious hazard for a healthy dog. However, it is important to keep in mind that any food not part of your pet's normal diet—especially if it’s high in fat or salt—can cause gastrointestinal upset. The consumption of large amounts of fatty or spicy foods may also lead to pancreatitis, a serious inflammatory condition of the pancreas.

The bottom line? If you decide to give your furry friend “a break today” and offer him a french-fried treat, do so only on occasion—and in small amounts.

I am making treats for my dogs and would like to color the white yogurt coating I'm going to use to decorate them. Are yogurt and food coloring that’s made for human consumption safe for pets?

- Elizabeth K.

Dipping your treats in white yogurt coating should not pose a problem for pets, Elizabeth—though minor stomach upset could occur in some sensitive animals. Food colorings approved for human consumption are also safe to be used in foods for pets. We do have to point out that using large amounts of food colorings can sometimes cause changes in the color of the pet's urine, however, but this would not affect the pet's health.

Is flaxseed poisonous to dogs? I often give my dog bread that contains flaxseed.

- Akiko

Dear Akiko,

Flaxseed isn't known to be poisonous to pets. However, if too much is ingested, it can cause gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea. As long as the bread doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients, and you only dispense it in small amounts, we wouldn't expect any problems.

Every now and then I give my Maltese a mashed, hard-boiled egg. Is it safe to continue doing this?

- Denise G.

What a lucky dog your Maltese is, Denise! The occasional offering of a plain, hard-boiled egg should not pose a problem for healthy dogs with no history of allergies to eggs. Should your Maltese begin to exhibit signs of gastrointestinal distress such as vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence or abdominal discomfort, we would recommend discontinuing the egg and speaking with your regular veterinarian.

I noticed your avocado information in the recent issue of ASPCA News Alert. Do you have any information about the safety of avocado in pet food?

- Nicole K.

Good question, Nicole. As you read in News Alert, avocado leaves, fruit, seeds and bark contain a toxic principle known as Persin. The Guatemalan variety, a common one found in stores, appears to be the most problematic. Other strains of avocado can have different degrees of toxic potential.

Avocado is sometimes included in pet foods for nutritional benefit. We would generally not expect avocado meal or oil present in commercial pet foods to pose a hazard to dogs and cats, but we advise against giving avocado flesh or peel to dogs and cats, as mild stomach upset may occur if the animal eats a significant amount. Ingestion of the pit can lead to obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, which is a serious situation requiring urgent veterinary care.

Are cucumbers safe for dogs to eat?

- Julie B.

There is currently no data indicating that cucumbers have toxic potential to pets, Julie. However, it is important to keep in mind that even vegetables or plants considered to be nontoxic can produce minor stomach upset if ingested.

While the ASPCA typically does not advocate the feeding of table foods to pets, if you choose to offer your dog a bit of cucumber now and then, be sure to keep an eye out for signs of gastrointestinal (GI) upset; if you notice any symptoms, it’s a good idea to discontinue giving him this veggie.

My sister's Labrador Retrievers run high pH levels in their urine and often get urinary tract infections. Is cranberry juice safe for them to drink to acidify their urine?

- Paula

Dear Paula,

There’s no data at this time indicating that cranberries (Vaccinium spp.) are toxic to dogs—or any other animal species. However, the berries can cause gastrointestinal upset, which can result from the ingestion of any plant material.

Nonetheless, preventing urinary tract infections with cranberry juice is a topic that should be addressed with the dogs' veterinarian. If the dogs are getting frequent infections, their vet is the best expert to help find an appropriate therapy.

I would like to give cranberries to my dogs to prevent urinary tract infections. Is this safe?

- Ginger P.

To our knowledge, there is no data at this time indicating that cranberries (Vaccinium spp.) are toxic to dogs, Ginger, beyond the possibility of gastrointestinal upset that can be seen with ingestion of any plant material. But considering that 10 years ago the toxic potential of another fruit—grapes—was not known, we are not comfortable making any type of absolute determination on the safety of cranberries when given to pets. Instead, we recommend that you contact your veterinarian for advice on the best way to maintain your dogs' urinary tract health.

I write a weekly food column in a local newspaper, and I’ve been asked if corn is harmful for dogs. I understand that it is a filler in certain dog foods.

- Crystal H.

Crystal, corn is not considered to be poisonous to pets. Certain animals can, however, have food allergies just like humans can, which could make them intolerant to corn or other ingredients. If pet owners feel that their dog or cat may be experiencing a food-related problem, we recommend that they consult with their local veterinarian to have the pet evaluated and determine if a food allergy or other health issue may be present.

I would like to grow coriander and parsley (both curly and Italian) inside my home. Are these herbs harmful to cats?

- Keith E.

Italian (also called flat-leaf) and curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and coriander (Coriandrum sativum) are considered to be non-toxic and edible. However, the plants do contain a variety of compounds that can potentially cause some gastrointestinal irritation, depending on the level of exposure. While we advise discouraging your cats from nibbling on parsley and coriander to avoid the potential for stomach irritation, we would not expect these plants to cause toxicity.

Is organic, pre-mixed compost harmful to dogs? My pets keep eating little bits of compost off of the ground. Will it make them sick?

- Ingrid

Any organic material can be attractive to dogs, who have been known to consume it in very large quantities. Depending on what's in the compost and how it's processed, it's possible that certain molds or other potentially harmful components are present. Homemade compost may contain spoiled foods, coffee grounds, plants and other ingredients that make great mulch for gardens, but are potentially hazardous material for pets. Since you're using pre-mixed compost, it's difficult to assess unless the label provides a specific breakdown of ingredients.

Aside from the possible risk of bacteria, toxin-producing molds or other harmful material, eating compost can also pose a choking hazard or lead to stomach or bowel obstruction. The bottom line? It's best to discourage your dogs from munching on compost.

Are coconut products—specifically coconut oil and coconut milk—harmful to cats?

- Danna

Dear Danna,

Coconut (Cocos nucifera) is not known to be toxic to pets. However, the flesh and milk do contain oils that, if ingested, may cause stomach upset, loose stools or diarrhea. Please exercise caution when offering your cats coconut, and only provide a small taste or two.

I recently bought my dog a bag of doggie chocolate drops, but when I looked at the ingredients, I saw that they contain cocoa powder. Are these dog treats truly safe?

- Ashley G.

Ashley, it is wonderful that you are watching out for substances that are potentially harmful to your canine companion! The amount of cocoa contained in these drops is very small, so we would not anticipate any problems for your dog. Should he decide to help himself to the entire package, the most we would expect to see would be minor gastrointestinal upset. So feel free to offer your canine friend a couple of these treats without worrying about chocolate poisoning.

Is chocolate as dangerous for cats as it is for dogs?

- Carla H.

Carla, while dogs tend to be most commonly affected largely due to their eating habits, chocolate can indeed be toxic to cats, as well as other pets. Depending on the type and amount ingested, chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, panting, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures—and even death in severe cases. Because of its toxic potential, we would advise against allowing your cat to consume chocolate.

Are my dogs able to eat American cheese?

- Gabrielle T.

That depends, Gabrielle. Milk, cheese, and other dairy foods are not considered to be poisonous to pets—unless they're spoiled or moldy. However, many pets’ digestive systems do not tolerate dairy foods very well, and the resulting vomiting and diarrhea could lead to inflammation of the pancreas in severe cases. Because of this, we would not recommend offering large amounts of dairy products to your dogs.

I recently bought carob chips at the health food store and would like to use them to coat dog biscuits. Is this OK?

- Linda T.

Although it is often used as a substitute for chocolate, carob has none of the harmful caffeine-like substances that chocolate does, so we would not expect a problem, Linda. However, minor stomach upset is possible if your dog were to ingest large amounts of carob—so don’t allow him to consume more than what would be used for coating on your biscuits.

Can canned tuna fish be fed to cats? Mine loves the smell and desperately wants it, but I heard that tuna contains mercury.

- Jo P.

An occasional tuna treat given to your cat is probably relatively harmless. It’s true that mercury is often present in tuna, and at low levels, this may not be a problem. But if tuna is fed nearly exclusively, it could potentially pose significant problems.

Nutritional deficiencies are also likely to arise in a cat consuming tuna as a staple part of his or her diet. For example, vitamin E is not present in significant amounts in tuna, which could lead to a deficiency of this vitamin. The resulting disease is called yellow fat disease, or steatitis. This disease causes fever, loss of appetite, and hypersensitivity to touch due to inflammation and necrosis of the fat under the skin. Since tuna is not formulated to meet all of the nutritional needs of a cat, companion felines could also develop other nutrient deficiencies. Most de-boned fish are deficient in calcium, sodium, iron, copper and several vitamins. However, these issues are not likely to be a concern with cats who are getting tuna only as a small, occasional treat.

My Yorkie likes a nibble of almonds and Brazil nuts whenever I eat them. Is this okay for her?

- Alison R.

The good news is that there is currently no data indicating that Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) or almonds (Prunus dulcis) are toxic to animals.

They can, however, cause stomach upset if eaten in large quantities. All nuts contain fats, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Foods with high fat contents can also potentially produce an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In addition, many commercially sold nuts are salted—and if a pet consumed a large volume of salt from the nuts, this could potentially pose a risk for the development of a sodium ion toxicosis.

I noticed that apple trees are on your toxic plant list. Is the fruit poisonous?

- Beverlee

Dear Beverlee,

The flesh of ripe apples doesn’t pose a problem for pets. However, apple stems, leaves and seeds contain substances known as cyanogenic glycosides, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a lack of oxygen in the blood, decreased heart rate, respiratory congestion, seizures, coma, and if large amounts are ingested, can lead to respiratory failure and death.

Small animals who consume a few pieces of the plant don’t typically show problems beyond gastrointestinal upset. Grazing animals—such as horses or livestock—are more prone to severe effects. Nonetheless, it’s still a good idea to discourage your pets from nibbling on the stems, leaves and seeds of apple trees.

I was wondering if anise is toxic to dogs. I’ve heard that it was, but can’t find any information on this. I like to use anise oil in some of my cookies during the holidays. Can you help?

- Theresa W.

I bet your cookies are delicious, Theresa! If large amounts are ingested, gastrointestinal tract irritation and minor central nervous system depression can be seen in dogs. The quantity used in baking should not pose a problem, though. We do recommend that pet owners avoid offering their furry or feathered companions "people food" such as this when cooking and baking, due to the increased risk of gastrointestinal upset caused by ingredients that are either human food or not part of your dog's normal diet.

My Yorkie likes a nibble of almonds and Brazil nuts whenever I eat them. Is this okay for her?

- Alison R.

The good news is that there is currently no data indicating that Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) or almonds (Prunus dulcis) are toxic to animals.

They can, however, cause stomach upset if eaten in large quantities. All nuts contain fats, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Foods with high fat contents can also potentially produce an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In addition, many commercially sold nuts are salted—and if a pet consumed a large volume of salt from the nuts, this could potentially pose a risk for the development of a sodium ion toxicosis.

I've been reading about the health benefits of acai berry and pomegranate. Are these "super fruits" harmful to dogs? I want to boost my ten-year-old German shepherd’s immune system and overall health.

- Peg D.

Dear Peg,

Neither pomegranate (Punica species) nor acai (Euterpe species) cause serious or life-threatening effects—gastrointestinal upset is a typical sign of ingestion of either plant.

Since certain human medications and supplements can be harmful to pets, however, we strongly recommend that you talk to your local veterinarian for guidance on how best to support your pet’s immune system and manage any health issues.

I just read that avocados are bad for pet. Is this true?

- Angelina

Avocado is poisonous to some animals. It contains Persin. The primary concern with avocado in dogs and cats is gastrointestinal upset, namely vomiting and diarrhea, but we know that some dogs and cats do eat avocado without having adverse reactions. Birds, rabbits, and some large animals are especially sensitive to avocados, as they can have respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart, and even death from consuming avocado. In short, I would not recommend avocados for dogs, cats, or other pets.

I heard that raw turkey could be toxic to dogs. Is this true?

- Calleen G.

The feeding of raw turkey or other uncooked meat could potentially cause problems for dogs, Calleen, especially if the meat is contaminated with harmful parasites or bacteria, such as certain strains of E. coli or Salmonella. If you would like to add additional meat or other protein to your dog's diet, we suggest talking with your regular veterinarian in order to determine the most appropriate nutritional program for your pet.

Is deer meat harmful to pets if fully cooked?

- Tamara C.

Unless your dog has a food allergy to the meat, an occasional nibble or two of cooked venison should not pose a serious hazard for a healthy dog, Tamara. However, it is important to keep in mind that any food that is not part of your pet's normal diet—especially those high in fat, such as roasted meats—can cause gastrointestinal upset. The consumption of large amounts of fatty foods may also lead to pancreatitis, a serious inflammatory condition of the pancreas.

The bottom line? If you decide to offer your dog a treat of cooked venison, please do so only on occasion, and in small amounts.

My husband likes to make fried rice with eggs, corn, peas, chicken broth, soy sauce and water chestnuts, and share a little bit with our two dogs. Are water chestnuts poisonous to dogs?

- Lisa

Dear Lisa,

The tubers of water chestnuts (Eleocharis dulcis) are often used in Asian cooking and are not considered to be of toxic concern for pets. None of the other ingredients in your husband’s dish are worrisome either, as long as he doesn’t use large quantities of soy sauce, which can be loaded with harmful sodium or MSG.

With that said, it’s still important to note that even non-toxic food that’s not part of your dogs’ normal diet can lead to gastrointestinal upset, and should never become more than an occasional treat in small amounts.

Is watermelon poisonous to my Labrador retriever?

- Rodney S.

As you know, watermelon is definitely considered to be edible by humans, and there is currently no data demonstrating that the edible portion, seeds and rind have potential to produce effects beyond minor gastrointestinal irritation to pets.

As a general rule of thumb, however, if you are considering offering any food outside of your dog’s normal diet, we recommend that you talk with your pet's regular veterinarian first.

My kitten is in the habit of breaking my wine bottles and drinking the spilled wine. Is this safe for her?

- Morgan U.

It certainly isn’t, Morgan. The situation you describe could be dangerous to your kitten for multiple reasons. First, the broken glass can present a physical hazard, as your kitten could get cut by the shards or suffer damage to her mouth and gastrointestinal tract if fragments are ingested. Second, the alcohol content of the wine could intoxicate your kitten, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, central nervous system depression, tremors, difficulty breathing, metabolic imbalances and coma. Death from respiratory failure could even occur if large enough quantities are consumed. Because of these risks, we would advise moving your wine bottles to a secure location where your kitten cannot gain access to them.

I am making treats for my dogs and would like to color the white yogurt coating I'm going to use to decorate them. Are yogurt and food coloring that’s made for human consumption safe for pets?

- Elizabeth K.

Dipping your treats in white yogurt coating should not pose a problem for pets, Elizabeth—though minor stomach upset could occur in some sensitive animals. Food colorings approved for human consumption are also safe to be used in foods for pets. We do have to point out that using large amounts of food colorings can sometimes cause changes in the color of the pet's urine, however, but this would not affect the pet's health.

My nine-month-old Yorkie snapped up a piece of zucchini recently, and she loved it. I now allow her to have tiny treats when I cook with this vegetable. Could this be a problem?

- Vera C.

Not that we know of, Vera. There is currently no data indicating that zucchini is potentially toxic to pets. However, it is important to keep in mind that even vegetables and plants considered to be non-toxic can produce minor stomach upset. Therefore, if you choose to offer your Yorkie a bit of zucchini now and then, be sure to keep an eye out for signs of gastrointestinal upset; if any occur, discontinue giving this veggie to her.

I understand that garlic is poisonous for dogs, but why is it often an ingredient in dog treats?

- Michelle S.

Good question, Michelle. Garlic does have toxic potential to pets, and is generally more potent than onion, also a member of the Allium species, in causing changes in red blood cells in dogs and cats. This is true in raw, cooked or powdered forms. In theory, "deodorized" garlic is allegedly less toxic, since the disulfides, responsible for both the odor and the toxicity, are usually largely removed.

Even at low levels of exposure to garlic, some change in red blood cells is likely; it is typically only when a significant number of red blood cells are altered that their oxygen-carrying capacity is noticeably compromised and clinical signs develop. Generally, it takes either a fairly large single ingestion or chronic exposure. These effects are also somewhat more likely to be seen in cats, as their red blood cells have shorter life spans and they're more likely to have bone marrow issues. However, the possibility exists that some dogs may also be genetically more susceptible to problems from garlic ingestions.

The lowest observed effect level in dogs in the scientific literature that we are aware of is 2.5 mg/kg of encapsulated garlic powder; slow heart rates and increased urination were seen. For comparison, a 20-pound dog consuming 1000 mg of garlic powder is exposed to a dose of 110 mg/kg.

The bottom line, Michelle, is that we do not definitively know at what dose any given dog may experience problems. An occasional low dose, such as those found in most commercial pet foods or treats, would not likely cause problems. A conservative approach might be to avoid exposure to more concentrated garlic-based products.

I give my cats dry cat food, and was surprised to learn that the brand I feed contains tomatoes. Aren’t tomatoes poisonous to pets?

- Tricia K.

In this case the answer is no, Tricia. The green parts of the tomato plant are considered toxic because they contain solanine, which has the potential to produce significant gastrointestinal and central nervous system effects. However ripe tomatoes, the part of the plant typically used in food products, are not toxic. Therefore, we would not expect any poisoning-related issues with the tomato content of your cat food.

Pet Care

I think my pet is sick. Who can help me?

The ASPCA regrets that we are unable to provide specific medical advice for your pet, or to comment on the medical care offered by a licensed health care professional. In order to properly diagnose a medical condition, a licensed veterinarian should be consulted. Self-diagnosis or delay seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition.

If your pet is showing unusual or abnormal behavior or exhibiting signs of illness, such as loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, or blood in the stool or urine, you should consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment of medical problems offers the best chance of successful treatment.

If you are looking for general information about pet health care problems, please visit our pet care section. You may also wish to visit the following websites:

The information on these websites may best be used in helping you to identify symptoms to enable the best possible treatment by a licensed professional. Write down the symptoms you've observed, when you observed them, and anything else that you think could have contributed to your pet's condition, including change of diet, etc., to discuss with a professional.

The ASPCA cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information posted on these sites.

I'm planning a trip by plane/car. Can my pet come?

Air travel
If you are traveling within the United States, please contact the airline directly for regulations and requirements for taking your pet on board or as live cargo. Most airlines will require a recent veterinary certificate of health in addition to specifications on carrier size. The ASPCA does not recommend sending your pet by air in the cargo hold, unless you have no other choice.

If you are traveling out of the country, please contact the embassy directly of the country to which you are flying. You may visit http://www.embassy.org/ or type in the country name and "Embassy" (e.g., Italian Embassy) for mandates, requirements and instructions.

For more pet travel safety tips, and for information about traveling out of state or overseas, you can visit our website.

You may also wish to contact:

American Dog Owners Association
http://www.adoa.org/

Companion Air
(561) 470-0970

The U.S. Department of Agriculture
(800) 545-USDA
http://www.usda.gov/

For information on pet/animal transport, you may wish to contact:

American Animal Transport Association
(713) 532-2177
http://www.aata-animaltransport.org/

Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association International, Inc.
http://www.ipata.com/
(903) 769-2267

For links to airline websites on which pet policies are listed, please visit:
www.dog-friendly.com/airtravel.htm

Car travel
Planning a road trip? Traveling with a pet involves more than just loading the animal in the back seat and motoring off. Please see our Car Travel Tips for more information.

Where can I find a pet sitter? Should I board my pet?

Boarding facilities*
The ASPCA strongly advises a visit and thorough inspection of each potential boarding facility, even if the facility has been recommended to you. Ask for, and check, references from other clients, inquire about the facility, its hours of operation, supervision of animals, exercise regimens, dietary provisions, affiliation with veterinarians in the community and staff qualifications. It's a good idea to check the reputation of a potential boarding facility with local veterinarians, trainers, etc. For referrals to reputable boarding facilities near you, you may wish to contact The American Boarding Kennel Association at (877) 570-7788 or (719) 667-1600.

Pet sitters*
If a boarding facility is not right for your pet, consider a professional pet sitter, who can care for your animal in your home or theirs. For referrals to a reputable pet sitter, you may wish to contact:

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
(856) 439-0324
http://www.petsitters.org/

Pet Sitters International
(336) 983-9222
http://www.petsit.com/

*The ASPCA does not independently investigate or endorse any pet sitting or boarding facility.

My pet has died—what should I do? Who can I talk to?

Losing a pet is never easy, and you don't have to go through it alone. Pet loss support and counseling information can be obtained by contacting a grief counselor. Usually, a counselor can provide more information about body disposal. For Pet Loss Support and Bereavement Counseling at the ASPCA, you can contact the ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline at (877) 474-3310.

Please visit our Pet Loss section for more information.

The following websites also address pet loss and bereavement issues:

Help—I think my pet has eaten something poisonous!

If you suspect your pet may have been poisoned or has ingested a toxic substance, call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center, a national telephone hotline that's available 24 hours a day/7 days a week and staffed by veterinarians and Board Certified Veterinary Toxicologists. Please note, there is a $65 charge for this lifesaving service. The phone number is (888) 426-4435.

What Is Microchipping?

The ASPCA strongly recommends that pet owners consider microchipping their pets, in addition to a current dog license and identification tag. You may also wish to discuss microchipping with your local veterinarian.

The following companies provide microchipping services. You may wish to visit their websites:

American Veterinary ID Devices (AVID)
(800) 336-AVID
http://www.avidid.com/

IDENTICHIP:
(800) 926-1313
http://www.identichip.com/

Home Again
(866) 738-4324
http://www.public.homeagain.com/

Companion Animal Recovery
(800) 252-7894
http://www.akccar.org/

24PetWatch
(866) 597-2424
http://www.24petwatch.com/

Datamars/Microfindr & PetLink.net
877-PETLINK (738-5465)
http://www.petlink.net/us

My pet is lost?/I think I've found someone's pet-what can I do?

In NYC
For lost or found pets in New York City, please contact Animal Care and Control (AC&C) by calling 311 or search their online database.

Outside NYC
Report a lost or found animal to your local shelter or animal control facility immediately.Because animal control facilities are often overwhelmed with unclaimed and unwanted animals, time is of the essence. If you find an animal,keep in mindthat someone is most likely looking for this pet-and if you don't report it to your shelter, the owner may never be reunited with his or her animal. You may also wish to place flyers around the neighborhood or an ad in your local newspaper. If you want to keep a pet whose owner cannot be located, consult your local humane organization for advice on how to proceed.

To read more suggestions, please read our article Tips on Finding a Lost Pet.

How can I find an apartment that allows pets?

Thank you for recognizing that our four-legged companions are part of family—and should go wherever you go! Check out the following resources in your search for pet-friendly housing:

In New York City
If you are having landlord/tenant disputes regarding your companion animal, please contact Legal Action for Animals at (718) 544-0605.

New York City & Beyond
For an attorney listing in your area, please contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund at (707) 769-7771 or visit their website.

The following websites also offer information and/or assistance in regard to pet-friendly housing:

www.allpetproperty.com

www.animalfriendlynyc.org

www.apartments.com

www.aptsforrent.com

www.apartmentguide.com

www.barakny.com

www.freelists.com

www.homeproperties.com

www.nycdoglife.com

www.peoplewithpets.com

www.petaholics.com/new_york_city_pet_friendly_apartments.php

www.rent.com/pet-friendly-apartments

www.rent.net

www.rentwithpets.org

www.urbanhound.com

In NYC
The ASPCA Mobile Spay/Neuter/Vaccination Clinic offers free/low cost vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery for financially needy dog and cat owners with proof of public assistance. Please contact our Hotline for a listing of dates and locations in all five boroughs at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4303.

Outside NYC
Visit our online database of low-cost spay neuter providers. You may also wish to contact the following national organizations that provide assistance for low-cost spay/neuter, certificates for participating veterinarians, and/or veterinary services:

Friends of Animals
(800) 321-PETS (7387)
http://www.friendsofanimals.org/

SPAY USA
(800) 248-SPAY (7729)
http://www.spayusa.org/

Hearts United For Animals
(402) 274-3679
http://www.hua.org/

United Animal Nations (UAN)
(916) 429-2457
http://www.uan.org/

Do you have information on animal-friendly accommodations?

There are thousands of motels, hotels and inns across the United States that accepts guests with pets! Most hotels set their own policies, so it is important to call ahead and ask if pets are permitted and if there is a size limit and/or extra charge. Pet-friendly lodging can be found in a number of publications and on the Web:

The following books on traveling with your companion animals are just some of the useful resources available:

  • Pets Permitted Hotel & Motel Directory by The Annenberg Communications Institute (310) 515-PETS.
  • Pets Welcome by Kathleen and Robert Fish, Bon Vivant Press.
  • On the Road Again With Man's Best Friend-United States, by Dawn and Robert Haygood, Dawbert Press.
  • Travel with or without Pets by Lisa Loeffler
  • Traveling With Your Companion Animal by the Humane Society of the United States, (202) 452-1100
  • Traveling With Your Pet by AAA Publishing
  • Vacationing with Your Pets by Eileen Barish

You can also visit the travel section of your local bookstore to find books on pet travel and taking your pet with you on road trips and vacations-there are lots of them.

I’m concerned about a product that may be unsafe for my pet. What can I do?

The ASPCA wants to hear from pet owners regarding concerns about the use of particular pet products. This ensures that we are aware of the issues, and thus can direct pet owners to the appropriate resources.

Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to directly handle complaints about pet products. Anyone who has used a product found to be unsafe or unsatisfactory may wish to contact the following organizations that are set up to address consumer complaints:

In New York City
If a problem arises in relation to an animal product obtained from a New York City-based pet shop, and the problem can be tied to the shop, you may wish to contact:
The Department of Consumer Affairs
42 Broadway
New York, NY 10004
(212) 487-4444

In New York State

  • The Consumer Union provides very general consumer complaint information, and can be reached at (914) 378-2000.
  • The New York State Department of Law, Attorney General's Office
    Consumer Fraud Division
    120 Broadway, 3rd Floor
    New York, NY 10271
    (212) 416-8300
    Consumer complaint forms can be obtained at http://www.oag.state.ny.us/.

Outside of New York
Pet owners living outside of New York City/New York State may wish to contact the following agencies for assistance:

You may also wish to write and/or call the manufacturer of the product in question, as well as the management of the store where you purchased the product to voice your concerns.

Possibly Poisonous?
If you are concerned that a product is toxic or poisonous to pets, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center can help.

What are the leash laws in my town? What if I see an off-leash dog?

Pet owners who allow their pets to roam unattended are putting the animals' welfare in jeopardy and creating a nuisance to neighbors, other domestic pets and wildlife. Allowing dogs to run off leash in inappropriate places is dangerous for the dog, puts people and other animals at risk and, in many towns and cities,is illegal. Leash laws exist to protect animals and people, and we urge you, as a responsible pet owner,to abide by them.Any animal control officer, police officer, or appropriate law enforcement agent can issue a summons upon witnessing a violation. Contact your local humane organization or animal control facility to determine what laws apply in your area.

In New York City
For leash law complaints in New York City, please contact the Department of Health at (212) 442-9666.

The ASPCA applauds the New York City Board of Health’s December 2006 decision to allow dogs to run without leashes in certain parks between 9:00 P.M. and 9:00 A.M. This new legislation codifies the off-leash courtesy many Big Apple parks have had in effect for nearly two decades. Download a PDF of the complete amendment to Article 161 of the New York City Health Code.

In light of this exciting development, the ASPCA encourages dog owners to show their gratitude by cleaning up after their pets, obtaining a dog license and spaying or neutering their pets. For more great tips on etiquette for urban dogs and their owners, check out Urban Dog Etiquette.

My landlord wants to evict me because I have a pet! and other housing problems

If you have received legal notice regarding pets and housing, you'll need to learn about the PET LAW and consult with an attorney. Visit our NYC FAQ for more on the Pet Law in New York City.

If you are a dog owner who has recently experienced a problem obtaining or renewing your homeowner's insurance due to breed bias or other reasons, please see the following article from the American Kennel Club.

You may also wish to contact:

Allstate
(800) 442-4203
http://www.allstate.com/

The American Kennel Club
919-233-9767
http://www.akc.org/

American Family Insurance
(608) 249-2111
http://www.amfam.com/

Farmers Insurance Group
(800) 435-7764
http://www.farmers.com/

Metropolitan Life Insurance
(800) 638-5433
http://www.metlife.com/

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Website
(800) 776-8552
http://www.nationwide.com/

State Farm Insurance
No national number, please contact local agent.
http://www.statefarm.com/

I need financial help with my vet bills.

The first step is to ask your animal hospital or private vet whether they offer a payment plan. Your local humane organization or animal advocacy group also may have information about other groups or organizations in your area that assist pet owners with veterinary bills.

In addition, if you live in a state that has a large college or university with degree programs in Veterinary Medicine, you may wish to contact the school and department for information about low-cost services they might offer through their programs.

The following organizations may be a good resource for other affordable options for veterinary care. The information given below is provided as a courtesy and does not imply the endorsement, recommendation and/or approval of any company or organization. This information is kept as current as possible, and is updated regularly.

Care Credit, a credit card company for veterinary care

American College of Veterinary Surgeons
(301) 913-9550

Hearts United for Animals
(402) 274-3679

RedRover

MaxFund (for animals with no known owner)
(303) 595-4917

American Animal Hospital Association Helping Pets Fund

Angels 4 Animals

Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance

The Pet Fund


Groups that are breed- or injury-specific:

Corgi Aid

Labrador Lifeline

LabMed Rx for Rescued Labs

HandicappedPets.com


In New York City only:

NY SAVE
(212) 246-3097

Help! My pet needs emergency medical care!

In NYC
ASPCA Animal Hospital, (212) 876-7700, x4200. We are located at 424 East 92nd Street, between 1st and York Aves. Hospital hours are Monday through Friday 9:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M., and Saturday from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Closed Sundays.

You may wish to contact the following veterinary clinics that provide 24-hour service:

Animal Medical Center (AMC)(212) 838-8100 510 E. 62nd Street, between FDR and York Aves. Open 24 hours

Manhattan Veterinary Group(212) 988-1000240 East 80th, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Open 24 hours

If you suspect your pet may have been poisoned or has ingested a toxic substance, call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), a national telephone hotline, available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. It is staffed by veterinarians and board-certified veterinary toxicologists. There is a $65 charge for this lifesaving service. The phone number is (888) 426-4435.

Also, read our helpful pet care section to learn about basic care.

Outside NYC
Since time is of the essence with medical emergencies, please do not email us about animal medical emergencies! Should your pet require immediate medical care, please have current information ready. Know where your local animal hospital is at all times.

If you suspect your pet may have been poisoned or has ingested a toxic substance, call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), a national telephone hotline, available 24 hours a day/7 days a week, staffed by veterinarians and board-certified veterinary toxicologists. There is a $65 charge for this lifesaving service. The phone number is (888) 426-4435.

Do I have to get a license for my dog?

A current pet license is your dog's ticket home should he or she become lost. And in New York City and many other areas in the country, it is also the law. A dog license helps your community keep tabs on pet populations, helps fund animal and humane health programs (i.e., spay/neuter, rabies programs, animal waste removal/sanitation, etc.), and helps foster responsible pet ownership.

Outside New York City
Contact your veterinarian, local humane organization, or town hall to determine what agency issues dog licenses and how to get one.

In New York City
Dog licenses are issued by the NYC Department of Health (DOH)—contact them by dialing 311. You can also download an application for a NYC Dog License.

How can I keep my pet safe in the event of a disaster or emergency?

Emergencies come in many forms, and they may require anything from a brief absence from your home to permanent evacuation. Each type of disaster requires different measures to keep your pets safe. The best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared.

Visit our Disaster Preparedness section for more information.

You may also wish to download our emergency pet preparedness brochure [PDF] . Please share this information with your pet-owning friends—it could save their companion animals' lives!

I can no longer keep my pet. what can I do?

The ASPCA considers pets to be members of the family.With many millions of companion animals surrendered to animal shelters each year, and countless stray animals roaming our streets, giving up a companion animal is not a decision to be taken lightly. If circumstances arise that prohibit you from caring for your pet, there may be options for you to consider before relinquishing your pet.

Many companion animals are given up by their owners because of behavior problems—and in most cases, there are things you can do to change your animal's unwanted behavior.Before you give up on your pet, please consult a reputable trainer or animal behaviorist for assistance. Your local humane organization can help with a referral. You can also see our online behavior information for helpful tips. 

If you have made up your mind to re-home your companion animal, your best bet is find your pet a home through your own personal contacts (i.e., your veterinarian, dog walker, pet sitter, friends, family, co-workers, etc.). You may also wish to list your pet on Petfinder.com.

Do not give up if you do not find a home for your animal right away!Finding an ideal home for a companion animal may take considerable time and effort, but your pet's future is in your hands.Be sure to screen potential adopters carefully; ask them for references; inquire about employment, financial stability, and previous pet ownership.Ask to visit their homes before you place your animal to ensurethat the environmentis suitable, and be sure to follow up with calls and visits.

If you can no longer keep a purebred dog, you may wish to visit the American Kennel Club's website, which provides a list of breed-specific rescue groups that place purebred dogs in homes. Putting your pet in a shelter should be your last resort. Most animal shelters operate at full capacity, and there is often a waiting list to get an animal into a non-animal control ("no-kill") shelter. Even if your pet does qualify for entrance into a "no-kill" shelter and there is space available, there are no guarantees that your pet will be adopted quickly, or at all. Remember, thenumber of animals in need of homes faroutweighs the number ofpeople looking to adopt. Most shelters reserve the right to end the life of any animal evaluated to be unfit for adoption, or if time or space has run out. Rules and regulations vary in every shelter, and so do the conditions. Make sure that any shelter you bring your animal to has a reputation for humane conditions and successful adoptions.To find a shelter near you, please visit our Shelter Directory.

Help! My cat's/dog's behavior is driving me crazy? How can I train my dog?

DON'T GIVE UP ON YOUR PET AND GIVE YOUR PET UP! At the ASPCA, we work to protect and preserve the person-to-pet relationship. For solutions to common behavior problems, visit our Animal Behavior section.

You may also wish to visit the following animal behavior websites:

http://www4.uwsp.edu/psych/dog/index.htm

- http://www.learn.petfinder.com/

- http://www.apdt.com/

Where can I find a pet taxi in New York City?

Pet Taxi New York
(718) 355-9665
Book online with coupon code "aspca," or mention that you were referred by the ASPCA, and receive a 12% discount on your ride.

We have a list of toxic plants available here: http://aspca.jacksonriverdev.com/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-an.... Check it out to learn more about what's safe for your pet!

Pet Care & Well-Being

Thank you for your concern about New York City’s feral cat population. The ASPCA endorses Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) as the only proven humane and effective method to manage feral cat colonies. We work closely with Neighborhood Cats, and we are a member of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative.

You can learn more about TNR in New York City here. For info on how you can help in your area, please also consult Neighborhood Cats and Alley Cat Allies.

Due to funding cuts by the Department of Health, Animal Care and Control (AC&C) of New York City is no longer able to pick up stray cats and dogs.

If the animal is tame and you are able to provide transport, you may bring him or her to any of AC&C’s five shelters/care centers.

Please exercise caution when interacting with an unfamiliar animal—do not approach any stray animal exhibiting odd behavior or signs of aggression. If the animal appears to be potentially dangerous or sick, please report it by calling 311.

The Administrative Code of New York City § 27-2009, commonly referred to as the “Pet Law,” describes the rights of tenants to keep their pets under certain circumstances, despite lease provisions to the contrary. In its plainest reading, the Pet Law provides that once a pet lives in a multiple dwelling (a building with three or more residential units) for three or more months, open and notoriously (not hidden from the building’s owners, their agents and on-site employees), then any no-pet clause in a lease is considered waived and unenforceable. A very helpful, in-depth explanation of the Pet Law can be found here [PDF].

The Pet Law will not help you if your pet has been deemed a nuisance, or is not legal to keep in New York City. Additionally, this law does not apply to residents of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which has its own policies concerning pets. NYCHA’s pet policy may be viewed here.

Regardless of the type of housing involved, legal advice from an expert in issues pertaining to animals should be obtained as soon as problems arise regarding your pet or before you are about to get a new apartment or pet. Sound legal counsel obtained early may prevent or minimize problems, whereas negotiating with management or owners yourself could have a detrimental effect on your case. Please note that while the ASPCA does not endorse any of the following organizations, they may be able to refer you to a lawyer with animal law experience.

If a boarding facility is not right for your pet, consider a professional pet sitter, who can care for your animal in your home or theirs. For referrals to a reputable pet sitter, you may wish to contact:

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
(856) 439-0324
http://www.petsitters.org/

Pet Sitters International
(336) 983-9222
http://www.petsit.com/

Microchipping your pet involves implanting a chip with your contact information in your pet’s shoulder area. The chip can be read by scanner at most animal shelters and is an excellent way to reunite lost pets with their families—as long as you keep providing the chip company with updated information.

The ASPCA strongly recommends that pet owners consider microchipping their pets as a permanent form of identification, in addition to a current dog license and identification tag. You may also wish to discuss microchipping with your local veterinarian.

You may wish to visit the websites of the following companies that provide microchipping services:

Home Again

American Veterinary ID Devices

24 Pet Watch® Microchip Identification

The ASPCA wishes to extend our deepest condolences to those experiencing or anticipating the loss of a beloved pet. We understand that this is a very tough time for the whole family. Please know that the ASPCA is here for you should you need assistance working through your grief.

If your pet is under the care of a veterinarian at the time of his or her passing, the vet can guide you through the next steps. However, New Yorkers who do not have a relationship with a veterinarian often ask what they should do when a pet dies at home. Living in New York City, you are fortunate to have a wide range of options. Whether you want simply for the body to be removed from your home, or you wish to permanently memorialize your pet in some special way, the choice is yours. Click here for detailed information on your options.

Please contact your veterinarian right away. Hazardous substances on an animal's coat may be a potential health risk to any person who comes into contact with them. Blood, vomit and other bodily fluids should also be avoided. Once any existing medical problems have been addressed and it has been determined that the pet is stable, bathing and other decontamination procedures may be best performed by trained veterinary professionals using appropriate protective equipment such as gowns, gloves and eye protection.

For pet transportation in New York City, you may wish to contact Pet Chauffeur at (718) 752-1767 or (866) PETRIDE. Mention that you were referred by the ASPCA and receive a 10-percent discount on your ride! Pet Taxi also has been used by patients of ASPCA Animal Hospital; call your pet a cab at (212) 755-1757.

You may wish to contact the following veterinary clinics that provide 24-hour service:

Animal Medical Center
(212) 838-8100
510 E. 62nd Street, between FDR and York Aves.
Open 24 hours

Manhattan Veterinary Group
(212) 988-1000
240 East 80th, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues
Open 24 hours

If you suspect your pet may have been poisoned or has ingested a toxic substance, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), a national telephone hotline, available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. It is staffed by veterinarians and board-certified veterinary toxicologists. There is a $65 charge for this lifesaving service. The phone number is (888) 426-4435.

Plants and Trees

We have a lot of mushrooms popping up due to all the wet weather we’ve been getting. Could these hurt my pets if eaten?

- Nancy A.

Thanks for your question, Nancy. Mushrooms are a very complex group of fungi. Certain species of mushrooms, such as the types you find in the grocery store, are considered to be nontoxic, while other wild species can be very toxic. Some have been known to cause liver and kidney damage, while others result in severe gastrointestinal and even neurological effects.

Because a toxic mushroom could be growing right alongside a nontoxic one, identifying what type the animal ingested can be tricky. Because of this, we advise that pet owners not allow their animals to ingest any wild mushrooms. And since we often cannot get a positive identification of the exact species involved, it is important to treat all wild mushroom ingestions very seriously.

I found a toadstool in my yard that was identified as a Lantern Stinkhorn. Is this toxic to pets?

- Anne M.

Lysurus mokusin or Lantern Stinkhorn is not currently known to be a poisonous fungus. In fact, it is considered to be a delicacy in Asia! But because it is often difficult for even expert mycologists to definitively identify wild mushrooms—toxic mushrooms can look similar to non-toxic varieties, and may even grow alongside one another—we advise pet owners to keep all wild mushrooms away from pets. We also encourage you to treat all ingestions seriously, and contact your local veterinarian for assistance should an exposure occur.

I’m planting Waxleaf Privet in pots where my dog will not be able to get to the leaves. But I’m concerned about any berries that may fall. Which part of the plant is toxic to pets?

- Suz

Dear Suz,

Waxleaf Privet is a popular shrub and member of the Oleaceae family. If ingested, the leaves and berries have the potential to produce abdominal discomfort, vomiting and diarrhea. In cases where large amounts are eaten—as seen with grazing livestock—loss of coordination, abnormal heart rate and, while rare, death may occur. While a nibble or two of a berry or leaf is not likely to pose a serious situation for your dog, we'd still recommend discouraging him from munching on your privet hedges and keeping them well out of his way.

Is watermelon poisonous to my Labrador retriever?

- Rodney S.

As you know, watermelon is definitely considered to be edible by humans, and there is currently no data demonstrating that the edible portion, seeds and rind have potential to produce effects beyond minor gastrointestinal irritation to pets.

As a general rule of thumb, however, if you are considering offering any food outside of your dog’s normal diet, we recommend that you talk with your pet's regular veterinarian first.

There is a walnut tree on the route I take with my Shih Tzu on her daily walks. She is still a puppy, and loves to bat, bite and carry the fallen walnuts that are still in their hulls. Could this be harmful to her?

- M.C.

Possibly, M.C. While walnuts are not considered to be toxic, all nuts contain fats that can cause gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Foods with high fat contents can also potentially produce an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis.

Additionally, walnut hulls that are moldy can contain penitrem A or other mold toxins that can produce neurologic effects. Thus, dogs ingesting old walnuts off the ground have the potential to develop tremors and seizures—even possibly even a foreign body obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract, if whole walnuts are swallowed. Because of this, we would advise not allowing your Shih Tzu to chew on or consume these walnuts during your walk.

Is it safe to have trumpet vines in our horse pasture?

- Ruth B.

Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) can be somewhat irritating to the gastrointestinal tract if ingested in significant amounts. As this could lead to colic and other problems in horses, it’s a good idea to discourage your horses from grazing on this plant.

I understand that garlic is poisonous for dogs, but why is it often an ingredient in dog treats?

- Michelle S.

Good question, Michelle. Garlic does have toxic potential to pets, and is generally more potent than onion, also a member of the Allium species, in causing changes in red blood cells in dogs and cats. This is true in raw, cooked or powdered forms. In theory, "deodorized" garlic is allegedly less toxic, since the disulfides, responsible for both the odor and the toxicity, are usually largely removed.

Even at low levels of exposure to garlic, some change in red blood cells is likely; it is typically only when a significant number of red blood cells are altered that their oxygen-carrying capacity is noticeably compromised and clinical signs develop. Generally, it takes either a fairly large single ingestion or chronic exposure. These effects are also somewhat more likely to be seen in cats, as their red blood cells have shorter life spans and they're more likely to have bone marrow issues. However, the possibility exists that some dogs may also be genetically more susceptible to problems from garlic ingestions.

The lowest observed effect level in dogs in the scientific literature that we are aware of is 2.5 mg/kg of encapsulated garlic powder; slow heart rates and increased urination were seen. For comparison, a 20-pound dog consuming 1000 mg of garlic powder is exposed to a dose of 110 mg/kg.

The bottom line, Michelle, is that we do not definitively know at what dose any given dog may experience problems. An occasional low dose, such as those found in most commercial pet foods or treats, would not likely cause problems. A conservative approach might be to avoid exposure to more concentrated garlic-based products.

I give my cats dry cat food, and was surprised to learn that the brand I feed contains tomatoes. Aren’t tomatoes poisonous to pets?

- Tricia K.

In this case the answer is no, Tricia. The green parts of the tomato plant are considered toxic because they contain solanine, which has the potential to produce significant gastrointestinal and central nervous system effects. However ripe tomatoes, the part of the plant typically used in food products, are not toxic. Therefore, we would not expect any poisoning-related issues with the tomato content of your cat food.

I haven't been able to find much information on the following plants and trees: Tasmanian Tree Fern (Dicksonia Antarctica), Peter Pan (Agapanthus Africanus), Rotundiloba (Liquidambar Styraciflua), and European White Birch (Betula Pendula). Are any of them toxic to pets?

- Alisa

Dear Alisa,

With the exception of producing mild stomach irritation, none of the plants you've listed are known to pose a serious toxic risk to animals. As with all plants, however, it’s always a good idea to discourage your pet from nibbling on them to avoid an upset stomach.

Are table and wine grapes toxic to dogs?

- Cynthia

Dear Cynthia,

Yes, table, wine and any other type of grape that belongs to the plant genus Vitis is considered toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure. We advise keeping grapes and raisins well out of the way of your canine friends.

My puppy loves to chew on the spiky pods that fall from the sycamore tree. Are they bad for her?

- Lin G.

They could be, Lin. While the ingestion of sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is not known to have life-threatening effects on dogs, your puppy could potentially develop vomiting and diarrhea from ingesting the seed pods or other parts of the tree. The pods are very "hairy" as well, which could cause physical irritation to the tissues of her mouth and gastrointestinal tract. Because of this, we recommend discouraging your puppy from chewing on these pods.

I bought a plant today called String of Beads, or Senecio herreianus. Can you tell me whether or not it is toxic to pets?

- Erin M.

Senecio herreianus is potentially toxic, Erin. It belongs to a vast group of plants, several of which contain toxic components known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These alkaloids can produce a variety of negative effects, including gastrointestinal irritation and liver damage in dogs and cats. We would advise you not to allow your pets to consume this plant.

Is spinach poisonous to cats? I looked at several websites and found conflicting information.

- Lauryl B.

Good question, Lauryl. There is currently no solid data pertaining to feline ingestions of spinach, but we do know that it contains a small amount of calcium oxalates. While a leaf or two may not be an issue for a healthy adult cat, chronic and/or large ingestions of spinach could potentially cause crystal formation in the urinary tract. (And P.S., Because of this, spinach should be avoided completely in any cat with a history of urinary problems, including infections, crystaluria and kidney disease.)

I have three cats, and was wondering if it’s safe to have spider plants in the house?

- Kerry B.

The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is not currently considered to be toxic to pets. However, it is important to keep in mind that even non-toxic plants may produce minor stomach upset if ingested. So, while you need not banish your spider plants from your home, it is still a good idea to discourage your cats from nibbling on them.

My cat likes to eat spider plants. I don’t see this on your list of poisonous plants, however. Can you confirm if it is toxic or not?

- Nancy L.

Certainly, Nancy. The spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is not currently considered to be toxic to pets. But as we always caution, even plants that are nontoxic may produce minor stomach upset if ingested. While you need not banish spider plants from your home, it’s still a good idea to discourage your cat from nibbling on them.

Is the South American Walking Iris toxic to pets?

- Sarah

Dear Sarah,

A flowering plant, South American Walking Iris (Neomarica gracilis) is a member of the Iris family. Certain members of the Iris family have less toxic potential than others. This appears to be true in the case of Neomarica—the plant is not known to cause gastrointestinal irritation as severely as other Iris family members.

With that said, it’s still a good idea to discourage your pets from nibbling on Neomarica to avoid any gastrointestinal effects.

Are shamrocks toxic to pets? If so, to what extent?

- Lipwah L.

A very timely question around St. Patrick’s Day, Lipwah! Shamrock, or Oxalis species, contains oxalic acid, which has the potential to produce kidney damage, depending on the amount ingested. Therefore, pets should not be allowed access to shamrocks.

I’m looking for a shade tree for my dog run. Can you tell me if Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) and Korean Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) are toxic to dogs? Thanks!

- Ashleigh

The plants of the genus Amelanchier—including serviceberry—contain substances known as cyanogenic glycosides. When fresh or dried, they have the potential to cause vomiting, diarrhea, a lack of oxygen in the blood (cyanosis), decreased heart rate, respiratory congestion, seizures and coma, and can lead to respiratory failure and death if consumed in large amounts. Even though most problems are seen with grazing animals like horses and cattle, dogs should still be kept away from it.

Stewartia species are not known to be toxic to pets and should be appropriate for your run, but mild stomach upset may occur if your dog ingests the plant.

I recently received a Schefflera arboricola plant as a gift. Are all schefflera plants poisonous to cats and dogs?

- Amanda C.

Plants of the genus Schefflera contain fine, needle-like calcium oxylate crystals within the plant cells. If ingested, these crystals can cause significant mechanical irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Based on this, it is advisable to keep Schefflera species out of your pets’ reach.

Does the sap of wild grapevines cause kidney failure in dogs like grapes and raisins?

- Norma

Dear Norma,

That's a great question! We don't have any solid data about whether grapevines are just as toxic as grapes. However, because we still have a lot to learn about what causes kidney failure in dogs who eat grapes and raisins, we recommend keeping your pet away from the vines of grape plants.

I have found equally conflicting reports regarding the toxic effects of rubber plants on cats. Can you be the tie-breaker for me?

- Jessie S.

Sure, Jessie! The potential for a rubber plant to be poisonous depends upon which kind of plant it is. The term 'rubber plant' is used to represent a variety of different plants. This may be where your conflicting information comes from.

Certain rubber plants do have some toxic potential, depending upon the genus and species. For example, the Japanese rubber plant (Crassula arborescens) can potentially produce vomiting, depression and a loss of coordination. The ingestion of the rubber tree (Ficus elastica) and variegated rubber plant (Ficus honduras) can result in moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation. The baby or american rubber plant (Peperomia obutsifolia), along with many others of the genus Peperomia, is not considered to be toxic?although it can cause some mild stomach upset.

Are roses toxic to cats if they eat them?

- Shelley Q.

There is currently no data indicating that roses (Rosa spp.) are poisonous to cats or other pets. However, it is important to keep in mind that even plants considered to be non-toxic can produce minor stomach upset if ingested. In addition roses have thorns, which could cause injury to curious noses, mouths and paws. Because of this, it is still a good idea to discourage your cat from nibbling on them.

I’ve heard that grapes and raisins are poisonous to dogs. Yes or no?

- Sheila C.

Yes, Sheila. At the current time, we know that grapes and raisins appear to cause renal failure in dogs who’ve ingested large amounts. However, we have not determined with certainty the toxic component, or the exact mechanism that causes renal failure. It is also not clear if only certain dogs are affected, or if long-term ingestions can lead to the same effects that a large one-time ingestion can. Because there are still many unknowns regarding the toxic potential of grapes and raisins, it is advisable not to give grapes or raisins to dogs in any amount.

I recently noticed my dog eating rabbit feces off the ground. What effect could this have on her?

- Kim B.

Kim, the consumption of fecal matter can cause bacterial-related gastrointestinal problems, and may also transmit parasites such as worms and certain diseases. Therefore, it is a good idea to discourage your dog from ingesting rabbit feces. To help curb this habit, you may wish to bring your dog outside in the backyard on a leash. There you will have an opportunity to teach her that eating rabbit droppings is a no-no.

Is Queen Palm toxic or non-toxic? We just moved to Phoenix, AZ, and have four in our yard.

- Andrea

Dear Andrea,

There is currently no data indicating that Queen Palm (Cocos plumose or Syagrus romanzoffiana) has toxic potential to pets. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even plants considered to be non-toxic can produce minor stomach upset if ingested. Therefore, it’s still a good idea to discourage your pets from nibbling on them.

I planted a pumpkin vine this year, and my cat is very interested in its leaves. Should I be concerned if she chews on them? I will pull up the plant if I have to, but my kids really want pumpkins for Halloween.

- Jeri

Dear Jeri,

Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) are not known to be toxic, but their leaves and stems have tiny, needlelike hairs that can cause irritation to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, as well as to curious noses and paws. While there’s no need to pull up the pumpkins that your kids are looking forward to, we recommend discouraging your cat, whenever possible, from munching on the leaves and stems.

I would love to have a poinsettia plant this holiday, but I’ve heard that they are poisonous to cats. Is this true?

- Lisa K.

Lisa, poinsettias are in actuality not the deadly flowers that popular legend has made them out to be. These striking plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are part of a family of plants known as spurges. During the 1820s Joel Robert Poinsett, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, first brought poinsettias to the U.S. from a Mexican city he had visited. The myth of the plant’s toxicity began in the early part of the 20th century when the two-year-old child of a U.S. Army officer was alleged to have died from consuming a poinsettia leaf.

As a result of this rumor, the toxic potential of poinsettia has become highly exaggerated. In reality, poinsettia ingestions typically produce only mild to moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation, which may include drooling, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Keeping this plant out of the reach of your pet to avoid stomach upset is still a good idea, but you need not banish the poinsettia from your home for fear of a fatal exposure.

Are pistachios and peanuts harmful to dogs?

- John

Pistachios and peanuts are not considered to be toxic, but all nuts contain fats, which can cause gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea. Foods with high fat content can also produce an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. Many commercial nuts are heavily salted, which poses a risk for the development of sodium ion toxicosis in large quantities.

The bottom line? An occasional peanut or pistachio is not likely to be a problem for your pet, but we wouldn’t recommend feeding him a significant amount of nuts.

Is the Peruvian Lily (or Lily of the Incas) toxic to cats?

- Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,

Alstroemeria species—the botanical name for Peruvian Lily—are members of the Tulipa family, and contain a substance called tulipalin A. This substance can produce gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting and diarrhea, if ingested in large amounts, so it’s a good idea to keep the plant well out of your cat’s reach.

Is 100% peppermint oil harmful to dogs? If not, does it offer any nutritional benefits to canines?

- Luana

Dear Luana,

Oils such as peppermint can cause oral, skin and gastrointestinal irritation—if swallowed in large quantities, central nervous system depression may occur as well. Due to its potential for problems, we would not recommend giving peppermint oil to your dog. If you’re looking for a supplement to support your dog's health, we advise communicating with your local veterinarian to get a recommendation for an appropriate product.

Are eucalyptus and pepper berry plants poisonous to pets? I’ve seen them in many holiday garlands and wreaths, and I’d like to know if they are safe to have around my dogs.

- Linda C.

Linda, all parts of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) contain an essential oil known as eucalyptol. Essential oils can cause vomiting, diarrhea and central nervous system depression if ingested in large enough amounts.

Unfortunately, there is not a great deal information pertaining to pepper berry (Schinus terebinthifolius) and its toxic potential. However, the entire plant is known to contain a volatile resin that can cause skin and gastrointestinal irritation.

Based on this information, we would advise not to allow your pets to have access to either of these plants.

Are the leaves of the peace lily as poisonous to pets as the flower portion?

- Lisa M.

Yes they are, Lisa. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum sp.) is considered to be toxic to pets—and if any part of the plant is chewed or ingested, it can cause significant mechanical irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the GI tract. This is true for both cats and dogs.

To get a bit technical, these plants contain cells known as idioblasts. Idioblasts contain raphides, which are slender, spearlike parts of calcium oxalate crystals. Raphides are sharp and needle-shaped, and are packed in a gelatinous substance. When the tip of the idioblast is broken, sap from the plant—or saliva from an animal—enters the cell, causing the gelatin to swell. The swelling action forces the raphides to shoot from the cell, kind of like a gun discharging a bullet. The calcium oxalate crystals penetrate an animal’s oral mucosa, tongue, and throat, causing damage. The cells may continue to expel crystals for a significant amount of time, even after a piece of plant material is swallowed. As this is happening, proteolytic enzymes stimulate the release of kinins and histamines by the body. The rapid inflammatory response from the release of these substances aggravates the damage caused by the crystals. Chewing, bruising, tearing, or otherwise damaging the plant is necessary to produce these effects.

According to our experience at the APCC, most animals exhibit GI-related symptoms, including drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, from ingesting peace lilies. On rare occasions, oropharyngeal swelling can be severe. Tongue swelling, trouble swallowing, and difficulty in breathing may be seen in these cases. Based on this information, we definitely advise keeping peace lily plants out of the reach of pets.

My Lab loves oranges. Are small amounts harmful to her?

- Wendy B

Not necessarily, Wendy. It’s true that the stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, limonin and oils, and these can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system (CNS) depression if they are ingested in significant amounts. But if your Lab eats one segment of an orange here and there, it shouldn’t cause her any problems beyond a possible minor stomach upset.

Since I don't use pesticides, I want to sprinkle nutmeg on my kitchen counter to deter ants. Will the spice hurt my cats if they lick it?

- Pam

Strange as it may seem, nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) has actually gained popularity as a street drug because of the psychological effects that are produced from the spice's volatile oil. If eaten in large amounts, this oil can cause vomiting and abdominal pain as well as central nervous system excitation. These initial symptoms are usually followed by profound drowsiness several hours after consumption.

Taking a lick or two of ground nutmeg is not likely to pose a serious problem for your cats; however, we'd still recommend using caution to prevent them from ingesting problematic quantities.

Is Norfolk pine poisonous to cats?

- Kate G.

Kate, significant ingestions of the evergreen Norfolk pine (Araucaria heterophylla) could potentially produce vomiting and depression. In some cases, a drop in body temperature and pale mucous membranes have been reported. Based on this information, we recommend that you don’t let your cat to nibble on this plant.

Our 100-pound mixed-breed dog eats Nandina berries. Are these poisonous?

- Jim N.

Jim, Nandina domestica does have toxic potential, as the berries and leaves contain cyanogenic glycosides. Depending on the circumstances of exposure, this can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a lack of oxygen in the blood, decreased heart rate, respiratory congestion, seizures and coma. If large enough amounts are ingested, this could ultimately lead to respiratory failure and death. While most problematic ingestions involve large animals who graze on substantial quantities of the plant, we would still recommend not allowing your dog to chew on Nandina berries or leaves.

I’ve read in several places that mushrooms are dangerous for cats. I know many types of mushrooms are dangerous to humans as well, but are human-safe mushrooms also cat-safe?

- Matthew

Dear Matthew,

Mushrooms that are available in the grocery store for consumption are not considered to pose a health hazard for pets, including cats. However, any food that’s not part of a normal diet can lead to stomach upset, which is why it's a good idea to only offer small portions as an occasional treat. Because wild mushrooms can be tricky to distinguish, and certain poisonous varieties mimic safe ones, we would not recommend offering your cat wild mushrooms.

My Welsh Corgi gets into mulch every time he goes outside. Is it harmful to him?

- Angela

Dear Angela,

Mulch varieties such as pine, spruce, cedar and fir may contain essential oils and resins that, in addition to the mulch's risk for obstruction, may produce gastrointestinal irritation (including drooling, vomiting and loss of appetite) and occasionally even minor central nervous system depression if ingested in large quantities. Dogs are especially attracted to cocoa bean shell mulch with its pleasant chocolate smell. Consuming large amounts can lead to signs similar to chocolate poisoning, including vomiting and diarrhea, and in cases where very large amounts have been consumed, muscle tremors or more serious neurologic or cardiac signs may occur.

Because your dog has demonstrated an attraction to mulch, he'll need to be supervised when spending time in mulched areas of your yard, and you may want to consider modifying his behavior to teach him not to eat mulch or other non-food items. Please consult our Virtual Behaviorist for tips about training your pup to stay away from toxic items.

As a joke gift for my birthday, my daughter-in-law recently bought me a Mother-In-Law’s tongue plant. Someone at work told me that it could make my cat sick. Should I get rid of it?

- Carrie W.

Mother-In-Law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) belongs to the Agavaceae family. Plants from this family can produce vomiting (occasionally tinged with blood), depression, weakness, drooling, loss of appetite and incoordination in animals. Abdominal pain, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing and elevated heart rate have also been reported in cats. Based on this information, it is a good idea to keep this plant out of your cat’s reach.

My pug started pulling leaves off our morning glory plants. Is this dangerous to her health?

- Trish B.

It could be, Trish. Morning glory (Ipomoea spp.) is a member of the Convolvulaceae family, and this plant (especially the seeds) contains hallucinogenic alkaloids similar to lysergic acid, or LSD. If enough of this plant material is ingested, significant and potentially even life-threatening central nervous system effects are possible. Because of this, it is a good idea to keep this plant material out of your pug’s reach.

Is my money tree poisonous to my pug?

- Marissa D.

There is no current data indicating that Pachira aquatic (commonly known as money tree) has toxic potential to pets, Marissa. However, it is important to keep in mind that even plants considered to be non-toxic can produce minor stomach upset if ingested. Therefore, it is a good idea to discourage your pug from nibbling on them.

Is milkweed poisonous to dogs? We have a lot of it where I live.

- Roden S.

It could be, Roden. Asclepias species can be potentially toxic to pets, as they contain substances that can produce gastrointestinal, neurologic and cardiac effects, depending on the circumstances of exposure. While most problematic exposures occur in grazing animals, we would still recommend not allowing your dog to consume this plant.

Is the plant Mexican Heather toxic to both cats and dogs?

- Sara

Dear Sara,

There is currently no data indicating that Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) has toxic potential to pets. However, it's important to remember that even plants considered to be non-toxic can produce minor stomach upset if ingested. Therefore, it's still a good idea to discourage your pets from nibbling on plants of any kind.

We have two Miniature Dachshunds and Min Pin Mix puppies who love to eat cantaloupe and watermelon. Can the fruit hurt them?

- Rachel

Dear Rachel,

The flesh of cantaloupe is considered edible, and there's currently no data demonstrating that it has the potential to produce effects beyond minor gastrointestinal irritation in dogs. An occasional small portion of cantaloupe as a treat should not pose a problem, but if you see any signs of gastrointestinal irritation—such as loss of appetite, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea—please discontinue feeding the fruit to your dogs.

We have a locust tree that drops large brown pods. Are these poisonous to pets?

- Kathy H.

It depends, Kathy. While the locust (Ceratonia siliqua) is not currently known to be toxic, black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) contains substances known as toxalbumins, which can be toxic to animals and humans alike.

The bark, leaves and seeds of black locust all contain the toxalbumins robin, phasin and robitin, which can produce severe gastrointestinal irritation, weakness, blood cell, liver and kidney damage—and in some cases, even death. Typically, the most severe cases are seen in large animals (cattle, horses) who graze on pods or foliage, but there is certainly potential for serious signs to occur in small animals, such as dogs, too. Based on this information, we recommend keeping this plant material well out of the reach of pets.

I have a cocker spaniel who loves to eat lemon seeds. Is this harmful for her?

- Sandra W.

The stems, leaves, peels fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, limonin and oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression, if ingested in significant amounts. However, the consumption of one or two seeds here and there would typically not be expected to cause serious problems beyond perhaps minor stomach upset.

Our new home has pink hydrangea bushes, and we have dogs. The former owner said he'd heard that only white hydrangeas were dangerous to canines. I don't usually see the dogs munching on bushes, but should I take out these plants to be safe?

- Cathy

Dear Cathy,

Plants of the genus Hydrangea contain substances known as cyanogenic glycosides, which when fresh or dried have the potential to cause vomiting, diarrhea, a lack of oxygen in the blood (cyanosis), decreased heart rate, respiratory congestion, seizures, coma, and can ultimately lead to respiratory failure and death if ingested in large amounts. Because of its toxic potential, hydrangea should be kept out of the reach of all pets.

I have a miniature schnauzer who tries to eat anything she can. Recently, I purchased a house with two large holly bushes in the front yard. I do my best to prevent her from eating the berries, but should I be concerned if she accidentally eats a few?

- Trish

Dear Trish,

Holly belongs to the plant genus Ilex. Plants of this genus contain caffeine-like substances and saponins, as well as a bitter-tasting protein known as ilicin. All parts of the plant are considered potentially toxic, and if consumed in large amounts, may result in gastrointestinal irritation and depression of the central nervous system. True poisonings are relatively uncommon, since the plant is not very palatable. However, due to possible side effects, it’s still advisable to keep holly and other Ilex plants out of your pooch’s reach.

We recently planted holly bushes in our yard. Are they safe around our golden retriever who likes to eat everything?

- Susan L.

Holly varieties (Ilex spp.) contain caffeine-like substances and saponins, as well as a bitter tasting protein known as ilicin, which can be potentially harmful to pets, depending on the amount ingested. According to our experiences at the Animal Poison Control Center, most ingestions result in gastrointestinal upset—but it is still a good idea to discourage your golden from nibbling on your holly bushes, Susan.

My dog loves to tear up the hibiscus plants in our yard, but leaves other plants alone. Why is this happening, and is this plant poisonous?

- Kym H.

While it is difficult to speculate on why your dog is tearing up these plants and not others, Kym, we can tell you that Hibiscus species can be potentially toxic, possibly causing significant gastrointestinal upset that could lead to dehydration. Drooling, loss of appetite and depression are also possible. Typically, these effects are seen in cases of single exposures to a significant amount of the plant material, rather than the chronic ingestion of small amounts. However, due to its toxic potential, we advise keeping hibiscus out of your dog’s reach.

I’m planting basil, oregano, lavender, sage, lemon mint and rosemary in pots in my home. But my cat likes to chew on plants—will these herbs hurt him?

- Melissa

Dear Melissa,

Many herbs, including those you mentioned but with the notable exception of garlic, onion and other plants, are considered to be non-toxic and edible in small amounts. Some of these plants do contain varied amounts of volatile oils, resins and/or tannins, which can all irritate the GI tract. The oils can even cause central nervous system depression if consumed in large amounts. The bottom line? A nibble or two of an herb such as lavender, rosemary or sage is not likely to be an issue—but don’t let your cat munch on these herbs in large quantities.

I'm planting a windbreak this spring and I'm planning on using Canadian hemlock. Before I buy, I want to know if this species of hemlock is poisonous to dogs and cats. Can you help?

- Brian W.

Good question, Brian. Tsuga canadensis (Canadian or Eastern hemlock) is not a hemlock considered to have toxic effects on pets, not beyond the mild gastrointestinal upset that could result from ingesting any plant material. Therefore, while your dog and cat should be discouraged from chewing on this plant, you should not expect any significant troubles if they manage to sneak a nibble.

I’ve read that English and other species of Hedera ivy are poisonous to dogs. Will these plants just cause stomach upset, or do they have more potential for damage?

- Kameron O.

All varieties of Hedera helix ivy have toxic potential, Kameron. If eaten, the results can range from gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea to lethargy, excessive thirst, dilated pupils, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing and even coma, in severe cases. In our experience, exposures to Hedera cause mainly gastrointestinal upset and lethargy, but because of its potential for adverse effects, we recommend that it be kept out of the reach of all pets.

My Lab/pit bull mix eats grass constantly. He occasionally throws up, but most of the time he seems to be enjoying it. Is it normal for dogs to do this, or could this be a problem?

- Lori H.

You pose a very good question, Lori. While some experts theorize that dogs eat lawn grass to help resolve gastrointestinal issues, others believe that dogs munch because they are satisfying a need for green leafy roughage. Still others think that some dogs nibble on lawn grass because, well, they’ll nibble on anything.

Whatever the reason, lawn grass—like any plant material—can potentially cause gastrointestinal tract irritation, and vomiting and/or diarrhea may occur as a result of ingestion. However, lawn grass that has not been treated with pesticides or other potentially harmful agents is not considered to be toxic, and systemic or serious clinical effects would not be expected should your Labrador/pit mix decide to sample your lawn.

I’ve heard that grapes and raisins are poisonous to dogs. Yes or no?

- Sheila C.

Yes, Sheila. At the current time, we know that grapes and raisins appear to cause renal failure in dogs who’ve ingested large amounts. However, we have not determined with certainty the toxic component, or the exact mechanism that causes renal failure. It is also not clear if only certain dogs are affected, or if long-term ingestions can lead to the same effects that a large one-time ingestion can. Because there are still many unknowns regarding the toxic potential of grapes and raisins, it is advisable not to give grapes or raisins to dogs in any amount.

Is NutriBiotic’s grapefruit seed extract safe to use in recommended doses for pets? Do you know if it’s truly okay for cats to take internally?

- Christina

Dear Christina,

The company you mention makes an extract product formulated specifically for dogs and cats. As long as you are using only that product, per label directions, we wouldn’t anticipate any problems from it. Nonetheless, if you’re using grapefruit seed extract to treat a health condition, please work directly with your cat's regular veterinarian to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Do you have any information about Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)? In particular, is it toxic to dogs?

- Bryan

Dear Bryan,

Golden Rain Tree—part of the Sapindaceae (or soapberry) family of plants—is not known to be toxic to pets, but it may cause gastrointestinal irritation if ingested. Therefore, while we wouldn't expect a serious or life-threatening situation, it's still a good idea to discourage your dog from munching on parts of the plant.

Are gladiolas toxic to cats?

- Sam L.

Gladiolas are potentially toxic to cats and other pets, Sam. These plants belong to the Iridaceae family, and although the entire plant is considered potentially harmful, the bulb typically contains the largest concentration of toxic components. The effects we see center around intense gastrointestinal irritation and typically include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea (occasionally bloody) and depression. Because of this, we recommend that owners not allow their pets to nibble on gladiolas.

Are Gazania plants poisonous to dogs? I’m concerned about my cockapoo.

- Shannon B.

Species of Gazania, also referred to as treasure flower, do have the potential to cause mild to moderate gastrointestinal irritation, depending on the quantity ingested. Because of this, pets should be discouraged from nibbling on this plant. But don’t worry too much, Shannon. We wouldn’t anticipate severe or life-threatening clinical problems should your cockapoo decide to sample your Gazania.

Can you give me the names of some garden plants that are safe for pets? Thank you.

- Patti M.

If you have not already done so, Patti, you may want to visit our toxic and non toxic plant database for information on which plants are safe and which ones to avoid. Due to the vast variety of plant species, no list should be regarded as fully comprehensive. However, if there is a specific plant that you are thinking of adding to your garden and it is not on either list, please let us know its scientific name (genus and species), and we will be happy to provide you with more information.

I’m making dog treats from scratch, and I’d like to know if any of the following fruit are toxic to dogs: blueberries, cherries, pineapple or cranberries?

- Karen

Dear Karen,

The ripe flesh of the fruit you mentioned is not known to be toxic to dogs. While your recipe sounds delicious and shouldn't pose a health concern, please use caution when feeding your pups large amounts of nontoxic fruit, since gastrointestinal upset may occur.

Is it safe for cats to eat the leaves from a freesia bulb?

- Anne

Dear Anne,

Freesia is a member of the Iris family (Iridaceae) and is not considered to be poisonous. However, ingestion does have the potential to cause stomach upset and vomiting, so it’s always a good idea to discourage your cat from munching on your Freesia plant.

I’m planting a new lawn and many of the seeds are endophyte-enhanced. I have a dog who enjoys grazing on grass, but is this new grass safe?

- Whitney

Dear Whitney,

We assume that you’re using fescue grass seed, but please let us know if this isn’t the case.

Fescue toxicity is mainly an issue in large animals who routinely graze on hefty amounts of fescue grass. This ingestion can cause a variety of problems, including prolonged gestation, failure to produce milk, death and decomposition of fatty tissue, heat intolerance and sloughing—separating and shedding—of necrotic hoof tissue. There are currently no reports of dogs experiencing fescue toxicity, so your pup’s intermittent nibbling shouldn’t pose a problem.

I have a nest of wild baby rabbits in my yard, and a lawn care company is coming out to put down fertilizer and weed preventer. Will it harm the rabbits?

- Katie K.

Most herbicides made for residential use are generally considered to be safe for use in environments where animals frequent, as long as the label instructions are followed exactly. For example, if a weed killer spray label states, "Keep animals away from treated areas until dry," it is important to adhere to these instructions in order to avoid problems. If these instructions are not followed, affected animals might exhibit such symptoms as mild skin or gastrointestinal irritation, or the desirable vegetation could be damaged from unintentional spread of the herbicide.

Since your situation involves nesting wild rabbits who cannot be as easily kept away from treated areas as can a dog or cat, we would first suggest putting up a temporary barricade around the nest (using wire garden fencing or something similarly appropriate) to keep the rabbits safely enclosed while the yard is being treated. We would also advise that the lawn company avoid applying the fertilizer and herbicide in close proximity to the nest to avoid unintentional overspray. The barricade should be kept in place to keep the rabbits off the lawn for a few hours to allow the treated areas time to dry. Once the treated areas are dry, we would not anticipate problems from the rabbits having contact with the lawn.

Are eucalyptus and pepper berry plants poisonous to pets? I’ve seen them in many holiday garlands and wreaths, and I’d like to know if they are safe to have around my dogs.

- Linda C.

Linda, all parts of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) contain an essential oil known as eucalyptol. Essential oils can cause vomiting, diarrhea and central nervous system depression if ingested in large enough amounts.

Unfortunately, there is not a great deal information pertaining to pepper berry (Schinus terebinthifolius) and its toxic potential. However, the entire plant is known to contain a volatile resin that can cause skin and gastrointestinal irritation.

Based on this information, we would advise not to allow your pets to have access to either of these plants.

I'd like to plant English pennyroyal in my dog pen. Is it safe?

- Vera

Dear Vera,

English pennyroyal—also known by the botanical name Mentha pulegium—contains pulegone, a substance that can indeed be harmful to pets. If enough is ingested, gastrointestinal irritation— including vomiting and diarrhea can occur—and in severe cases, profound weakness of the limbs and liver damage may also result. We advise pet parents against allowing pets to nibble on the plant or using concentrated pennyroyal oil on pets.

I noticed your avocado information in the recent issue of ASPCA News Alert. Do you have any information about the safety of avocado in pet food?

- Nicole K.

Good question, Nicole. As you read in News Alert, avocado leaves, fruit, seeds and bark contain a toxic principle known as Persin. The Guatemalan variety, a common one found in stores, appears to be the most problematic. Other strains of avocado can have different degrees of toxic potential.

The safety profile of foods and other products formulated with avocado is a difficult question for us to answer definitively, because we do not know specifically how avocados are processed for these foods, what types of avocados are used, or what minimum dose of the toxic principle results in clinical effects. Therefore, we have refrained from making an overall assessment of the safety or toxicity of products that contain avocado.

I just received a Dendrobium orchid plant. Is it safe for my cat?

- Denise C.

There is currently no data indicating that Dendrobium orchids are potentially toxic to pets, Denise. However, it is important to keep in mind that even plants considered to be nontoxic can produce minor stomach upset if ingested. Because of this, it is still a good idea to discourage your cat from nibbling on them.

Are cyclamen plants poisonous to cats?

- Nerina O.

Possibly, Nerina. The genus Cyclamen encompasses quite a few different species. It is believed that a great many, if not all, species contain the toxic principal cyclamine. While the largest concentration of this toxic principal is generally contained within the tuber, the rest of the plant may also contain some level of cyclamine. Because of this, we consider the whole plant to have at least some degree of toxic potential to pets.

It is important to remember that just because the tubers are underground when they are planted does not necessarily mean that an animal will not consume them. It is not at all uncommon for dogs, and certain other pets, to dig up and ingest entire plants?leaves, stems, bulbs, tubers, roots and all! Pets will even eat the tubers and other parts straight out of a package an owner has brought home from the store. Because of its toxic potential, we advise not allowing your cat to nibble on cyclamen.

Are cucumbers safe for dogs to eat?

- Julie B.

There is currently no data indicating that cucumbers have toxic potential to pets, Julie. However, it is important to keep in mind that even vegetables or plants considered to be nontoxic can produce minor stomach upset if ingested.

While the ASPCA typically does not advocate the feeding of table foods to pets, if you choose to offer your dog a bit of cucumber now and then, be sure to keep an eye out for signs of gastrointestinal (GI) upset; if you notice any symptoms, it’s a good idea to discontinue giving him this veggie.

I am interested in the dangers of two plants to my dogs: Croton and bamboo. What can you tell me?

- Sheri B.

Sheri, Croton species are members of the Euphorbiaceae family, and can cause gastrointestinal irritation, including abdominal discomfort, vomiting and diarrhea. Based on this information, it is advisable to keep this plant out of your dogs’ reach.

There are several different varieties of bamboo, all with varying degrees of toxic potential. In order to provide you with the most relevant information, we need to know the scientific name or genus and species of the bamboo plant in question. Once we have this, we will be happy to provide you with more details.

I would like to give cranberries to my dogs to prevent urinary tract infections. Is this safe?

- Ginger P.

To our knowledge, there is no data at this time indicating that cranberries (Vaccinium spp.) are toxic to dogs, Ginger, beyond the possibility of gastrointestinal upset that can be seen with ingestion of any plant material. But considering that 10 years ago the toxic potential of another fruit—grapes—was not known, we are not comfortable making any type of absolute determination on the safety of cranberries when given to pets. Instead, we recommend that you contact your veterinarian for advice on the best way to maintain your dogs' urinary tract health.

I’m looking into planting a crabapple tree, but I want to make sure that it won’t be poisonous to my dogs.

- Ethel C.

Good question, Ethel. It’s always a good idea to check first! The seeds, leaves and stems of the crabapple species contain substances known as cyanogenic glycosides, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a lack of oxygen in the blood, a decreased heart rate, respiratory congestion, seizures and coma. A large enough ingestion could ultimately lead to respiratory failure and even death. Typically, we do not see any problems beyond gastrointestinal irritation in small animals who consume a few pieces of the plant material. Severe clinical effects usually occur in grazing animals such as horses or other livestock, who consume large quantities.

The bottom line? A nibble or two of a fallen crabapple is not likely to pose problems beyond minor stomach upset. Just don’t let your dogs eat them in quantity or allow them to consume the leaves, stems or other parts of the tree.

My cat loves to eat corn silk from fresh corn on the cob. Is it OK for him to eat this?

- Cherie E.

Unfortunately, no. While corn kernels are generally considered to be edible, we would not advise allowing your cat to ingest the silk portion of the corn plant. Aside from the potential for stomach irritation, the stringy nature of the silk could cause an obstruction or other serious damage to the intestines, should it become bunched or bound up.

As you mention that your cat appears to be attracted to the silk, we would strongly recommend that you place your cat in a separate room when shucking fresh corn. You should also immediately dispose of the husks and silk in a bag or other trash receptacle in a location inaccessible to your cat, such as an outdoor trash bin.

I write a weekly food column in a local newspaper, and I’ve been asked if corn is harmful for dogs. I understand that it is a filler in certain dog foods.

- Crystal H.

Crystal, corn is not considered to be poisonous to pets. Certain animals can, however, have food allergies just like humans can, which could make them intolerant to corn or other ingredients. If pet owners feel that their dog or cat may be experiencing a food-related problem, we recommend that they consult with their local veterinarian to have the pet evaluated and determine if a food allergy or other health issue may be present.

I would like to grow coriander and parsley (both curly and Italian) inside my home. Are these herbs harmful to cats?

- Keith E.

Italian (also called flat-leaf) and curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and coriander (Coriandrum sativum) are considered to be non-toxic and edible. However, the plants do contain a variety of compounds that can potentially cause some gastrointestinal irritation, depending on the level of exposure. While we advise discouraging your cats from nibbling on parsley and coriander to avoid the potential for stomach irritation, we would not expect these plants to cause toxicity.

Is organic, pre-mixed compost harmful to dogs? My pets keep eating little bits of compost off of the ground. Will it make them sick?

- Ingrid

Any organic material can be attractive to dogs, who have been known to consume it in very large quantities. Depending on what's in the compost and how it's processed, it's possible that certain molds or other potentially harmful components are present. Homemade compost may contain spoiled foods, coffee grounds, plants and other ingredients that make great mulch for gardens, but are potentially hazardous material for pets. Since you're using pre-mixed compost, it's difficult to assess unless the label provides a specific breakdown of ingredients.

Aside from the possible risk of bacteria, toxin-producing molds or other harmful material, eating compost can also pose a choking hazard or lead to stomach or bowel obstruction. The bottom line? It's best to discourage your dogs from munching on compost.

Are coconut products—specifically coconut oil and coconut milk—harmful to cats?

- Danna

Dear Danna,

Coconut (Cocos nucifera) is not known to be toxic to pets. However, the flesh and milk do contain oils that, if ingested, may cause stomach upset, loose stools or diarrhea. Please exercise caution when offering your cats coconut, and only provide a small taste or two.

Cocoa bean mulch is popular in our neighborhood. Is this toxic to dogs?

- Julie M.

It depends, Julie. Dogs who consume enough cocoa bean shell mulch could potentially develop signs similar to that of chocolate poisoning, including vomiting and diarrhea. In cases where very large amounts of mulch have been consumed, muscle tremors or other more serious neurological signs could occur. To date, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has not received any cases involving animal deaths due to cocoa mulch ingestion.

One key point to remember is that some dogs, particularly those with indiscriminate eating habits, can be attracted to any kind of organic matter. If you have a dog who tends to be, shall we say, less than finicky, it is important that your dog not be left unsupervised or allowed in areas where such materials are being used.

I have a clematis plant in my backyard. If my dog were to chew on it, could it cause her to become sick?

- Heather T.

Clematis belongs to the Ranunulaceae family of plants, and contains an irritant substance known as protoanemonin. Because this substance has the potential to produce both dermal and gastrointestinal irritation if consumed, your dog should be discouraged from chewing on your clematis plant.

Your site lists citronella as being toxic. Does that mean that citronella anti-barking collars are dangerous to dogs?

- Ted D.

The answer is no, Ted—in most cases. While citronella oil does have the potential to be toxic in large amounts, the amount many collars use in their spray is relatively small. Most contain about 10 percent citronella. This level might potentially be an issue for animals who have a history of respiratory problems, but otherwise we would not expect to see any problems.

Is the water in our Christmas tree stand poisonous to our dog and cat?

- Daniel G.

Not really, Daniel, but it could have other negative effects. For example, sometimes people add preservatives to Christmas tree water that may contain fertilizers. While these preservatives are not poisonous, they can cause stomach upset. Stagnant tree water can also be a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea. It's a good idea to make sure a skirt or a cloth covers the bottom of your tree to deter your dog and cat from drinking the water.

Are all types of cherry trees poisonous to dogs?

- Tina S.

The stems, leaves and seeds of cherries and other fruit trees of the genus Prunus contain substances known as cyanogenic glycosides, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a lack of oxygen in the blood (cyanosis), decreased heart rate, respiratory congestion, seizures, and coma—and could ultimately lead to respiratory failure and death, if large enough amounts are ingested.

Typically, Tina, problems beyond gastrointestinal irritation are not seen with small animals who’ve consumed a few pieces of plant material. Severe clinical effects usually are seen in grazing animals such as horses or other livestock who have ingested large quantities. However, it is still a good idea to discourage your dog from consuming plants of this genus.

Can I give castor oil to my kitten?

- Regina

Dear Regina,

It's not a good idea to feed castor oil to cats. Most castor oil products, unlike the beans of the plant, aren't considered poisonous. However, ingestion of the oil can have a significant cathartic effect, and cause diarrhea and possibly vomiting. This could result in serious dehydration, particularly in a young kitten. We don't advise giving castor oil to your kitten— instead consult with your regular veterinarian to get a recommendation for an appropriate remedy.

My greyhound tends to want to munch on our butterfly bush. Could this be harmful to her?

- Sara M.

Other than a possible upset stomach, Sara, the answer is likely to be no. There is currently no data indicating that butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) has toxic potential for dogs or other animals. However, it is important to keep in mind that plants considered to be non-toxic can still produce stomach upset if ingested. Therefore, we would recommend not allowing your greyhound to make a habit of nibbling on this bush.

Are black chokeberry and buckhorn berries poisonous to dogs?

- Stephen D.

Good question, Stephen. While there is no information on reports of toxicity from Aronia melanocarpa or black chokeberry at the current time, other plants that belong to the Rosaceae family can contain cyanogenic glycosides in varying amounts. These glycosides, if ingested in large enough amounts, can produce difficulty in breathing, dilated pupils, brick-red mucous membranes, hyperventilation and shock. Because of this, it is a good idea to discourage your dog from nibbling on this plant.

As for buckhorn, there are a number of different plant genera that are referred to by this common name, each with varying degrees of toxic potential. In order to provide you with the most relevant information, we will need to know the scientific name, that is the genus and species, of the buckhorn you have. If you are not certain of this, you might want to bring a cutting to your local nursery or garden center for identification.

How many buckeyes would a 70-pound dog have to eat before becoming very ill? We have buckeye trees in our yard and are trying to figure out where to put a fenced enclosure.

- Liz M.

That’s a tough question, Liz. Buckeye (Aesculus spp.) is a member of the Hippocastanaceae family, and contains a toxic component known as aesculin. When ingested, buckeye can potentially produce significant GI irritation, dilated pupils and severe central nervous system depression, possibly leading to coma. In some cases, however, the opposite—central nervous system excitement—is seen.

Concentration of the toxin can vary from tree to tree, and even from one buckeye nut to another—so it is difficult to determine the number of nuts that could be problematic. Because of this, we advise that you do not allow your dog to consume any amount.

My Yorkie likes a nibble of almonds and Brazil nuts whenever I eat them. Is this okay for her?

- Alison R.

The good news is that there is currently no data indicating that Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) or almonds (Prunus dulcis) are toxic to animals.

They can, however, cause stomach upset if eaten in large quantities. All nuts contain fats, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Foods with high fat contents can also potentially produce an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In addition, many commercially sold nuts are salted—and if a pet consumed a large volume of salt from the nuts, this could potentially pose a risk for the development of a sodium ion toxicosis.

Is the perennial plant Blue Wonder Campanula toxic to cats?

- Nancy

Dear Nancy,

Campanula species are not considered to be poisonous to pets, but they can cause gastrointestinal irritation, including vomiting and diarrhea. While there's no risk of life-threatening illness, it's still a good idea to discourage your cat from munching on your Campanula.

Is Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) poisonous to dogs?

- Doris

Dear Doris,

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) contains substances known as alkaloids, which can cause tremors, loss of coordination, drooling, and in severe cases respiratory distress, seizures and possibly even death. Poisonings from this plant typically involve livestock who have grazed on large amounts. However, the potential for toxicity exists for other animal species as well, so cats and dogs should not be allowed to consume this plant.

For information on non-toxic plants suitable for planting in your yard, check out our online plant database.

Are black chokeberry and buckhorn berries poisonous to dogs?

- Stephen D.

Good question, Stephen. While there is no information on reports of toxicity from Aronia melanocarpa or black chokeberry at the current time, other plants that belong to the Rosaceae family can contain cyanogenic glycosides in varying amounts. These glycosides, if ingested in large enough amounts, can produce difficulty in breathing, dilated pupils, brick-red mucous membranes, hyperventilation and shock. Because of this, it is a good idea to discourage your dog from nibbling on this plant.

As for buckhorn, there are a number of different plant genera that are referred to by this common name, each with varying degrees of toxic potential. In order to provide you with the most relevant information, we will need to know the scientific name, that is the genus and species, of the buckhorn you have. If you are not certain of this, you might want to bring a cutting to your local nursery or garden center for identification.

Our city plans to plant bear grass (Xerophyllum tenax) along our property line. Is it poisonous to animals?

- John

Dear John,

Bear grass is part of the Liliaceae family and is not considered toxic to pets, but even non-toxic plants still have the potential to cause mild stomach upset. Therefore, we suggest steering your pets away from munching freely on bear grass.

I am interested in the dangers of two plants to my dogs: Croton and bamboo. What can you tell me?

- Sheri B.

Sheri, Croton species are members of the Euphorbiaceae family, and can cause gastrointestinal irritation, including abdominal discomfort, vomiting and diarrhea. Based on this information, it is advisable to keep this plant out of your dogs’ reach.

There are several different varieties of bamboo, all with varying degrees of toxic potential. In order to provide you with the most relevant information, we need to know the scientific name or genus and species of the bamboo plant in question. Once we have this, we will be happy to provide you with more details.

I noticed that apple trees are on your toxic plant list. Is the fruit poisonous?

- Beverlee

Dear Beverlee,

The flesh of ripe apples doesn’t pose a problem for pets. However, apple stems, leaves and seeds contain substances known as cyanogenic glycosides, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a lack of oxygen in the blood, decreased heart rate, respiratory congestion, seizures, coma, and if large amounts are ingested, can lead to respiratory failure and death.

Small animals who consume a few pieces of the plant don’t typically show problems beyond gastrointestinal upset. Grazing animals—such as horses or livestock—are more prone to severe effects. Nonetheless, it’s still a good idea to discourage your pets from nibbling on the stems, leaves and seeds of apple trees.

Is the Angel’s Trumpet vine harmful to dogs if chewed?

- Beth M.

Possibly, Beth. Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia suaveolens, Datura stramonium) does have toxic potential. Its toxic components include atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine, which can possibly affect the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and nervous systems if large enough quantities are consumed. Therefore, we would advise you not to allow your dogs to nibble on this plant.

I received an amaryllis bulb for growing indoors as a holiday gift, but I am worried that my two puppies might get into the plant while I’m not looking. Is this plant dangerous to dogs?

- Joan C.

It certainly could be, Joan. Many varieties in the Amaryllidaceae family, including Hippeastrum spp. commonly known as amaryllis), contain potentially irritating substances such as lycorine. The bulb, or rhizome, is usually considered to be the most toxic, but other parts can also possibly produce intense gastrointestinal irritation, depression, drooling (hypersalivation), loss of appetite and tremors, if eaten in large quantities. Based on this, we do advise keeping these plants out of the reach of pets.

I would like to get an aloe plant to use as a salve for burns. Can I use it on my pets, too?

- Michael K.

Unfortunately, the Aloe vera plant, from the liliaceae family, does have toxic potential—both the outer portion and the inner, liquid portion. Aloe contains saponins, which can produce vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, depression, and tremors in companion animals. Due to the high probability of ingestion, we generally do not recommend using the plant as a salve on pets.

My Yorkie likes a nibble of almonds and Brazil nuts whenever I eat them. Is this okay for her?

- Alison R.

The good news is that there is currently no data indicating that Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) or almonds (Prunus dulcis) are toxic to animals.

They can, however, cause stomach upset if eaten in large quantities. All nuts contain fats, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Foods with high fat contents can also potentially produce an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In addition, many commercially sold nuts are salted—and if a pet consumed a large volume of salt from the nuts, this could potentially pose a risk for the development of a sodium ion toxicosis.

Could eating an acorn make my dog sick?

- Bob B.

Acorns (Quercus spp.) contain a toxic principle called Gallotannin. In cows and horses who repeatedly ingest significant amounts, we have seen potentially severe gastrointestinal irritation, depression and kidney damage.

Dogs, however, generally do not forage on acorns as livestock do—and even if they do ingest several acorns, it is usually an acute (single) exposure, not a chronic situation. In these cases, we typically only see mild to moderate gastrointestinal upset, which can include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. However, there is also the potential for mechanical irritation (from the sharp fragmented pieces of acorn), and possible obstruction, should a large amount of acorn material become lodged in the GI tract.

I've been reading about the health benefits of acai berry and pomegranate. Are these "super fruits" harmful to dogs? I want to boost my ten-year-old German shepherd’s immune system and overall health.

- Peg D.

Dear Peg,

Neither pomegranate (Punica species) nor acai (Euterpe species) cause serious or life-threatening effects—gastrointestinal upset is a typical sign of ingestion of either plant.

Since certain human medications and supplements can be harmful to pets, however, we strongly recommend that you talk to your local veterinarian for guidance on how best to support your pet’s immune system and manage any health issues.

I just read that avocados are bad for pet. Is this true?

- Angelina

Avocado is poisonous to some animals. It contains Persin. The primary concern with avocado in dogs and cats is gastrointestinal upset, namely vomiting and diarrhea, but we know that some dogs and cats do eat avocado without having adverse reactions. Birds, rabbits, and some large animals are especially sensitive to avocados, as they can have respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart, and even death from consuming avocado. In short, I would not recommend avocados for dogs, cats, or other pets.

My nine-month-old Yorkie snapped up a piece of zucchini recently, and she loved it. I now allow her to have tiny treats when I cook with this vegetable. Could this be a problem?

- Vera C.

Not that we know of, Vera. There is currently no data indicating that zucchini is potentially toxic to pets. However, it is important to keep in mind that even vegetables and plants considered to be non-toxic can produce minor stomach upset. Therefore, if you choose to offer your Yorkie a bit of zucchini now and then, be sure to keep an eye out for signs of gastrointestinal upset; if any occur, discontinue giving this veggie to her.

I see that regular yucca is on the poisonous plants list, but what about the plant yucca cane?

- Crystal G.

Crystal, all parts of the Yucca species including Y. elephantipes (yucca cane) are indeed considered to be toxic. However, the concentration of toxins can vary from one part of a plant to another, depending on soil conditions and other environmental factors. As our website indicates, Yucca spp. has the potential to produce gastrointestinal irritation, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. It can also cause depression and, in severe cases, seizures. Based on this information, we advise you to keep all parts of the plant out of your pet’s reach.

I have wisteria growing in my yard. Could it be poisonous to my Springer spaniel?

- Amy S.

In a word, YES.

Wisteria is part of the Leguminosae family, and contains the glycoside wistarin and another toxic component called lectin. While the pods and seeds contain the majority of these toxins, all parts of this plant are considered to be poisonous. If ingested, wisteria can produce significant abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially profound central nervous system depression. Ingestion of only one or two seeds can cause serious illness. Based on this, you should not allow your dog to chew on this plant.

This year for the holidays, we used American winterberry to decorate our home instead of holly, which I know can be toxic. Does winterberry pose any risk to our dogs?

- Travis S.

Unfortunately, Travis, winterberry belongs to the plant genus Ilex, of which most holly species are a part. Plants of this genus contain caffeine-like substances and saponins, as well as a bitter-tasting protein known as ilicin. All parts of the plant are considered potentially toxic, and may result in gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression if very large amounts are consumed.

Because the plant is not very palatable, we’ve found that true poisonings are relatively uncommon. However, due to the possible effects we can see from ingestions, we do advise keeping winterberry and other Ilex plants out of the reach of pets.

Are willow trees poisonous to dogs?

- Tim

Dear Tim,

The bark of the Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana) and many other willow trees contains salicylates, which are similar to aspirin. Salicylate poisoning is possible if the tree is ingested in large amounts. Dogs can be affected as well as cats, but cats are particularly vulnerable because they do not metabolize salicylates well. Thus, the ASPCA recommends discouraging your pet from chewing on willow trees.

Programs & Services at the ASPCA

Animal rescuers are vital to the welfare of New York City’s animals, and the ASPCA is proud to offer a variety of resources to registered rescuers—including spay/neuter and vaccination services, humane cat and dog traps and our Partner in Caring grants. If you would like to become a registered rescuer with the ASPCA, please download our rescue agreement [PDF].

More resources are available to animal rescuers at aspcapro.org.

That’s wonderful! The ASPCA, as an affiliate of the Delta Society, is pleased to offer training classes that help prepare you and your dog for participation in animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities. Check our website for upcoming classes or contact the Animal Assisted Therapy Programs by calling 212-786-7700, ext. 4426, or emailing AAT.department@aspca.org.

One of the ways you can take an active role in improving the lives of New York City’s animals is by helping to get legislation passed as a member of the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade. Membership is free, and you can participate as much or as little as you like. Go here to sign up.

As a member of the Advocacy Brigade, you will receive periodic email updates informing you of the introduction and status of animal-related bills on the city, state and federal levels. Our interactive letter-writing technology allows you to send letters to your legislators at a moment’s notice. Active involvement by concerned individuals like you is extremely important in the successful passage of legislation.

Great idea! The ASPCA Adoption Center is located at 424 East 92nd Street (between 1st and York Avenues). The ASPCA’s volunteer program is vital to our operation, and our volunteers are making an impact in many areas. Today, volunteers assist in the care and placement of the animals housed in our shelter, educate the public and provide support for administrative programs. To learn how to volunteer at the ASPCA, and to see which positions are available in our volunteer section.

Please keep in mind:

  • All volunteer opportunities are in New York City
  • Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older. (Positions for 14- to 17-year-olds are currently full.)
  • Volunteers must be able to commit to a minimum of 8 hours per month for 6 months.

Of course, many other NYC shelters and animal groups need volunteers as well. Look up your local shelter and give the staff a call to see if they can use your services.

The ASPCA is a national organization located in New York City, and is not affiliated with any other animal agency in the United States. To search for current available positions at the ASPCA or to apply for a position, click here.

Click here for an overview of animal-related careers.

If you live in NYC, the ASPCA Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic offers free/low-cost spay/neuter surgery for dog and cat owners in need, but they must provide proof of public assistance, such as a Medicaid card. Please contact our hotline at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4303, or check our mobile clinic calendar for a listing of dates and locations in all five boroughs.

Cruelty situations involving animals in New York City should be reported to the NYPD. If you live in NYC and need to report animal cruelty, please call 311. For crimes in progress, please dial 911.

Abuse of any kind should be reported to the appropriate authorities immediately. Animal cruelty and neglect is not only wrong, it is against the law in every state in this country and is a FELONY in many states! Animal abuse can also be part of a pattern of other violent acts within families and society.

Learn more about reporting animal cruelty.

The ASPCA Animal Hospital is located inside the ASPCA’s New York City headquarters at 424 East 92 Street. Our dedicated staff of 18 veterinarians (including board certified specialists in internal medicine, surgery and oncology) and more than 22 licensed veterinary technicians are committed to providing the most up-to-date and compassionate care to the animals who come through our doors.

Walk-in emergency care is available from from 8:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M., Monday through Friday, and 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. on Saturdays. Appointments are preferred.

Call (646) 259-4080 to make an appointment. For emergency care, please walk right in.

If you wish to visit the ASPCA Adoption Center to adopt a furry friend, our address is 424 East 92nd Street (between 1st and York Avenues). Adoption hours are Monday through Saturday from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M., and Sunday from 11:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Adoption fees are $75 and up. You must have two forms of identification and be able to provide current references that we can reach via telephone during the day. View the ASPCA's available animals.

You can also visit one of NYC Animal Care and Control's shelters to adopt a pet.

Quick Response

When you call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435, it's most helpful to be ready with the following information: - the species, breed, age, sex, weight and number of animals involved
- the animal's symptoms
- information regarding the exposure, including the agent (if known), the amount of the agent involved and the time elapsed since the time of exposure.

Have the product container/packaging available for reference. Collect in a sealable plastic bag any material your pet may have vomited or chewed.

If your animal is having seizures, losing consciousness, is unconscious or is having difficulty breathing, telephone ahead and bring your pet immediately to your local veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic. If necessary, he or she may call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

Otherwise, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435.

If you suspect that your pet may have become exposed to a harmful substance, but is not showing signs of illness, stay calm! Contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435 first. Not all exposure situations require an immediate trip to the clinic.

Recognizing Animal Cruelty

Yes, it is. You don't have to hit an animal to be cruel to him—depriving an animal of food, water or necessary medical care is neglect, which is a form of cruelty.

There are two general categories of animal neglect: simple neglect and gross, willful, cruel or malicious neglect. Simple neglect (failure to provide basic needs) is not always considered a criminal act, and can often be resolved by the intervention of local animal care and control or humane agencies, which may be able to offer resources and educate offenders on how to provide proper care for their animals. However, a growing number of states make a distinction between simply failing to take adequate care of animals and intentionally or knowingly withholding sustenance. Accordingly, "willful" neglect is considered a more serious, often prosecutable offense.

Neglect can also be an indicator of "animal hoarding," the accumulation of large numbers of animals in extremely unsanitary conditions, often resulting in the death of many animals and potentially serious health consequences for the people who are living with them. In many cases, individuals charged with animal abuse and neglect in hoarding situations have been found to have children or dependent adults living in the same conditions as the animals who are suffering.

The ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement department finds out about most instances of animal abuse in New York through phone calls from concerned citizens who witness cruelty in their neighborhoods. Without tips from the public, many animals would remain in abusive circumstances, mute and unable to defend themselves. It all starts with you—that's why it's so important to learn how to recognize and report crimes against animals.

There is no federal cruelty law—and technically, there cannot be. Animal cruelty is dealt with on the state level because the United States Constitution limits the areas in which Congress can pass federal laws applicable nationwide (Article 1, Section 8), and instructs that everything else is up to individual states to handle. However, there are some federal laws to regulate specific activities that affect animals. For example, the Animal Welfare Act regulates the sale, handling and transport of certain animals.

The U.S. Congress' broadest Constitutional power is over activities that impact or affect international and interstate commerce. Acts of animal cruelty typically occur in a fixed place, and probably cannot be interpreted to impact interstate commerce—not yet, anyway—so the federal government has no jurisdiction over them. The flip side of this is animal fighting ventures, which do sometimes involve movement between states. Therefore, because can it involve interstate commerce, there are federal laws addressing animal fighting and outlining penalties. One such law is 2007's Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act.

Animal cruelty occurs when someone intentionally injures or harms an animal or when a person willfully deprives an animal of food, water or necessary medical care. Here are some signs that may indicate abuse or neglect:

  • Tick or flea infestations 
  • Wounds on the body 
  • Patches of missing hair 
  • Extremely thin, starving animal 
  • Limping 
  • An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal 
  • Dogs who are repeatedly left alone without food and water, and often chained in a yard 
  • Dogs who have been hit by cars—or are showing any of the signs listed here—and have not been taken to a veterinarian 
  • Dogs who are kept outside without shelter in extreme weather conditions 
  • Animals who cower in fear or act aggressively when approached by their owners 

Seasonal

Sunbathing, pool parties, barbecues and fleas? ASPCA experts offer the following tips to keep your pets safe when the mercury rises:

- Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. If ingested, they can produce stomach irritation in pets, and possibly even central nervous system depression.

- Do not apply sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. The ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy in pets.

- Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets' reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which if swallowed could result in difficulty breathing, or kidney disease in severe cases.

- Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them. Alcoholic beverages can be poisonous to pets and if ingested, the animal could become extremely weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma.

- Cats react very differently than dogs to some insecticides; because of this, some flea-control products that are safely used on dogs, particularly those containing permethrin, can be deadly to cats, even in small amounts.

The cold weather can bring about some surprising chemical dangers involving ice-melting products and antifreeze.

- After your dog's been outside in the sleet, snow or ice, thoroughly wipe off his legs and stomach. If he licks his paws, he could ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals. His paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

- Antifreeze, while essential to a car's cooling system, is very dangerous to your pets if they are exposed to it. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

For more helpful information, please check our Top Ten Cold Weather Tips.

Holiday hazards include:

- Christmas tree water, which may contain fertilizers and bacteria that can upset the stomach if ingested

- Electrical cords

- Ribbons or tinsel, which can become lodged in the intestines and cause intestinal obstruction—this most often occurs with kittens

- Batteries

- Glass ornaments.

Of course, there are usually a lot of delicious goodies floating around during the holidays, too—be sure to keep human treats inaccessible to your pets.

Here are a few top tips to ensure a safe February 14 for your furry loves:

- Potentially poisonous flowers include lilies, tulips, amaryllis, daisies, chrysanthemums and baby's breath.

- Don't leave the room while candles are still burning. Many pets, particularly kittens, are attracted to the flames and could get burned or singed.

- Take extra care if you'll be serving wine—if ingested, this could cause a range of symptoms, from vomiting and diarrhea to metabolic disturbances and even coma.

Click here for the complete ASPCA Guide to a Pet-Friendly Valentine's Day.

Selecting the Right Pet for You

The ASPCA believes that the best pet/people matches are based on compatible personalities, not on what a dog or cat looks like. Therefore, rather than reserve a certain breed or size of pet for you, we prefer that you come down to the shelter. The animals in our care range widely in size, age and personality type, and our highly trained behaviorists will help you to find a pet who fits best with your personality and lifestyle.

Yes, the ASPCA has both purebred and mixed-breed pets. It is a myth that shelters only house mixed-breed dogs and cats.

Of course! You’ll have an opportunity to socialize with the dog or cat you’ve chosen to meet. Our playrooms, training center and dog runs are available for you and your canine of choice, and you’ll be given a chance to hold and play with the cats who strike your fancy. We’ll make sure you have plenty of hands-on interaction and opportunities for bonding before you make your decision.

Please know that when you come in to the ASPCA Adoption Center to look for your new pet, you’re not alone in the search. Our shelter has five full-time trainers—more than shelters three times our size—who have gotten to know our animals. They will be happy to guide you in your selection.

Shelters and Adoption

How can I start a shelter?/Our shelter needs information and assistance/I have a complaint about a shelter.

The ASPCA's Shelter Outreach department welcomes requests for help from people looking to improve the lives of animals in their communities. Every year the ASPCA visits more than 150 shelters throughout the country, talking with directors, volunteers and employees, discussing their problems and assisting them with suggestions, materials and resources. It takes a lot more than good intentions to run a shelter, and the ASPCA's Shelter Outreach team is staffed by seasoned animal welfare professionals who are there to help with sheltering situations in YOUR area.

Click here to learn about starting a shelter in your area, if you have a complaint about a specific shelter, or if you represent a shelter in need of guidance or assistance. You can contact outreach@aspca.org for more information.

I have a complaint about a shelter.

The ASPCA's Shelter Outreach department welcomes requests for help from people looking to improve the lives of animals in their communities. Every year the ASPCA visits more than 150 shelters throughout the country, talking with directors, volunteers and employees, discussing their problems and assisting them with suggestions, materials and resources. It takes a lot more than good intentions to run a shelter, and the ASPCA's Shelter Outreach team is staffed by seasoned animal welfare professionals who are there to help with sheltering situations in YOUR area.

If you have a complaint about a specific shelter, or if you represent a shelter in need of guidance or assistance. You can contact outreach@aspca.org for more information.

How can I start a shelter?/Our shelter needs information and assistance/I have a complaint about a shelter.

The ASPCA's Shelter Outreach department welcomes requests for help from people looking to improve the lives of animals in their communities. Every year the ASPCA visits more than 150 shelters throughout the country, talking with directors, volunteers and employees, discussing their problems and assisting them with suggestions, materials and resources. It takes a lot more than good intentions to run a shelter, and the ASPCA's Shelter Outreach team is staffed by seasoned animal welfare professionals who are there to help with sheltering situations in YOUR area.

If you have a complaint about a specific shelter, or if you represent a shelter in need of guidance or assistance, you can contact outreach@aspca.org for more information.

In NYC

If you wish to visit our Manhattan headquarters to adopt a furry friend, our address is 424 East 92nd Street (between 1st and York Avenues). Adoption hours are Monday through Saturday from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M., and Sunday from 11:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Adoption fees are $75 and up. You must have two forms of identification and be able to provide current references that we can reach via telephone during the day. View the ASPCA's available animals.

You can also visit one of NYC Animal Care and Control's shelters to adopt a pet.  Visit their website to see photos of available animals and get information about adopting.

Outside NYC

Millions of dogs and cats are destroyed annually in shelters across the country because there are no homes for them and many of these animals are pure breeds. Please consider adopting from a shelter and saving a life!

Visit our Find a Shelter database to find an adoption center in your area.

You can also visit Petfinder.com, an online database of about 60,000 adoptable animals at more than 5,500 shelters and rescue throughout the United States. You can search this site by breed, sex, age, gender and location, and you'll find a photo and bio for each pet awaiting adoption.

TAX BENEFITS OF CAR DONATION

Any Charity, LLC (V-DAC), a limited liability company registered in the State of California. It maintains $2,000,000 in legal liability coverage for the operation of the vehicle donation business. The V-DAC program protects donors and fully indemnifies organizations.

The logos, names and indices of the ASPCA Vehicle Donation Program, Vehicle Donation to Any Charity, and other companies used on this site are protected by the copyright and trademark laws of the United States.

Vehicle Donation to Any Charity
116 Washington Ave, Suite E
Point Richmond, CA 94801

This vehicle donation program protects the privacy of donors. Donor information is not given to any organization except the IRS as required by law and the donor designated organization. Donor names and addresses, excluding Social Security Numbers, are shared with the donor designated organization. Social Security Numbers required under the current tax law for vehicle donations are only shared with the IRS. Social Security Numbers are maintained away from other data on a special high-security server not connected to the Internet.

The Vehicle Donation Program provides the donor with written acknowledgment (a Tax Receipt or IRS Form 1098C) within 30 days of selling the vehicle, stating either the amount the vehicle sold for (if over $500), or that the vehicle is eligible for the fair market value deduction (if it sold for less than $500).

If itemizing deductions, donors must file the Tax Receipt or IRS Form 1098C with their tax return.

The Vehicle Donation Program must file Form 1098C with the IRS for all vehicle donations, including the donor's Social Security Number and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

The ASPCA Vehicle Donation Program gives no tax advice. It is solely your responsibility to report vehicle value and your tax status. More information about deducting vehicle donations is available from the IRS at http://www.irs.gov.

The fair market value of a vehicle is the price a donor could sell it in its current condition to another individual, willing seller or willing buyer, and represents the cash that a donor gives up in the form of the donation.

A convenient source of information on the private-party sale value is in on-line valuation guides such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds or NADA.

You are entitled to receive a tax deduction equal to the sales price of your donated vehicle, if you itemize your deductions. If the vehicle sells for less than $500, you can deduct the fair market value up to $500 (see below). You will receive a tax receipt within 30 days of the sale. Call (866) 789-8627 if you need another copy of the receipt.

Website/Email Related

Can I use articles/logos/photos from the ASPCA website for my website/magazine/newspaper?

The ASPCA authorizes permission to reprint specific articles, photos, and other educational information on a case-by-case basis. To consider your reprint request, please provide the ASPCA with the following information:

  • The full legal name of the organization requesting permission to reprint.
  • Contact information (organization name, address, phone number, e-mail).
  • The type of organization requesting reprint authorization (e.g. for-profit or not-for-profit).
  • The location and date the requested information appeared on the ASPCA website.
  • Purpose of the reprint request.

Information may be provided via email, regular mail, and/or fax to the following addresses/fax number:

ASPCA
Attn.: Legal Department
424 E. 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128
Fax: (212) 860-3560
legal@aspca.org

Please allow at least two weeks for processing after all information has been received by the ASPCA Legal Department. The ASPCA's failure to reply to any reprint request is NOT implied or explicit permission to use such materials. Permission to reprint any ASPCA material is made on a one-time only basis; additional reprint requests must be approved by the ASPCA.

How do I unsubscribe from ASPCA newsletters and emails?

Please click on the "Manage Profile" link, which appears at the bottom of every email the ASPCA sends out, and check the box below "Unsubscribe From All." If you have already deleted your email from the ASPCA, you can send us an unsubscribe request to website@aspcaemail.org.

To stay up-to-date on the latest news from the ASPCA, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Please click on the "Manage Profile" link, which appears at the bottom of every email the ASPCA sends out. If you have already deleted your email from the ASPCA, please email us your old and new email address to webteam@aspca.org.

Add website@aspcaemail.org to your address book

Want to make sure you receive all of the ASPCA's latest newsletters and alerts? To prevent ASPCA email from being caught by your spam filter, please put website@aspcaemail.org in your email address book. For more specific instructions, please select your email program/provider below:

Outlook Express
1. Start Outlook Express
2. Under the Tools Menu, go to Message Rules -> Mail
3. Click New.
4. Under “Select the Conditions for your rule,” put a checkmark next to “Where the from line contains people.”
5. Under “Select the Actions for your rule,” put a checkmark next to “Move it to the specified folder.”
6. Under “Rule Description (click on an underlined value to edit it),” the phrase “contains people” should be underlined. Click on it, type in website@aspcaemail.org, and click Add and then OK.
7. Again under “Rule Description (click on an underlined value to edit it),” the phrase “specified folder” should be underlined. Click on it, make sure Local Folders is selected on the left, then click on New Folder on the right. Name the folder (“ASPCA,” for example), then click OK.
8. Click OK twice.

Yahoo! Mail
If you are using the New Yahoo! Mail Beta Version
1. Click on Contacts in the left-hand side
2. Click on Add Contact at the top of the screen
3. Under Email Addresses, enter website@aspcaemail.org, then click Save.

If you are using the older version of Yahoo! Mail:
1. Click on the Address tab near the top of the page.
2. Enter website@aspcaemail.org in the box labeled “E-mail.”
3. Click Save.

Hotmail
1. On the right hand side of the page, click on “Options.” (If you are using the full version, you will then need to click on More Options.)
2. Under “Junk e-mail,” click on “Safe and blocked senders.”
3. Click on “Safe senders.”
4. Enter website@aspcaemail.org into the box on the left.
5. Click “Add to list.”
6. Check that website@aspcaemail.org shows up in the box on the right.

Gmail
1. Click on Contacts on the left-hand side of the screen.
2. Click on Create Contact near the top.
3. Next to Primary Email, enter website@aspcaemail.org, then click Save.

AOL
1. Click the Mailbox icon.
2. Click the Address Book.
3. Select Add Contact.
4. Type website@aspcaemail.org in the Contact section.

NetZero
1. Click the Settings link and select Email Features.
2. On the Email Features screen, click the Do Not Block link.
3. The “Email Features: Do Not Block” screen will appear, displaying your current Do Not Block.
4. Type website@aspcaemail.org in the box under “Add Address to Do Not Block.”
5.Click the Add button to add the address to the list on the right.
6.When you are finished, click the Save button.

Juno
1. Click the Email Features link within Email on the Web.
2. On the Email Features screen, click the Do Not Block link.
3. The Email Features: Do Not Block screen will appear, displaying your current Do Not Block.
4. Type website@aspcaemail.org in the box under “Add Address to Do Not Block”.
5. Click the “Add” button to add the address to the list on the right.
6. When you are finished, click the Save button.

Earthlink
1. Click on Address Book on the left, below your Folders.
2. When your Address Book opens, click the Add button.
3. On the Add Contact screen, find the Internet Information box.
4. Enter website@aspcaemail.org into the top Email box.
5. Click Save.

MSN
If you are using MSN version 9:
1. Click on Settings: E-mail|Junk e-mail (at the bottom left of the screen, just above Calendar).
2. On the E-mail settings screen, click Junk E-Mail Guard.
3. Select Safe List.
4. In the space provided under "Add people to the safe list," type website@aspcaemail.org
5. Click Add.

For older versions of MSN, you can add our address to your Safe List as follows:
1. Click on E-mail settings (it's at the bottom left of the screen, just above Calendar).
2. On the E-mail settings screen, click Junk Mail.
3. Select Safe List.
4.Click “Add an item to this list.”
5. When the Add To Safe List box appears, enter website@aspcaemail.org.
6. Click Add.

Verizon
1. Go to your Verizon Inbox.
2. Click Options.
3. Select the Block Senders tab (near the top of the screen).
4. On the Block Senders screen, you'll see both a Block Sender List and a Safe List. In the space where it says, "Enter e-mail address or sub domain to always accept even if the domain is blocked," enter website@aspcaemail.org.

Lotus Notes
1. Under the Actions menu go to Tools -> Mail Rules
2. Click on “New Rule” near the top.
3. Under “Create condition” there are boxes containing “sender” and “contains.” Type website@aspcaemail.org in the third box, then click Add.
4. Under “Specify actions,” there is a box labeled “move to folder.” Click the Select button to the right and choose Inbox.
5. Click Add Action, then OK.

Comcast Webmail
1. Click the Address Book link in the left menu
2. Click Add Contact at the top of your Address Book.
3. Type website@aspcaemail.org in the Email Address section, then click Add.

Where to Report Animal Cruelty

For concerns about an animal breeder, please contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can contact its headquarters at (301) 734-7833, visit www.aphis.usda.gov, or send an email to ace@aphis.usda.gov. The USDA will direct you to the appropriate regional department to which you will be asked to submit your complaint in writing.

For concerns about animal cruelty in pet stores, please contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can contact its headquarters at (301) 734-7833, visit www.aphis.usda.gov, or send an email to ace@aphis.usda.gov. The USDA will direct you to the appropriate regional department to which you will be asked to submit your complaint in writing.

You're right to be concerned. Some of what is being sold and shown online crosses into the realm of criminal activity. And in some cases, there are laws against showing and selling these images.

To report websites that display acts of cruelty to animals, you should first contact the website host or sponsor. Major providers of Internet service, such as AOL and Google, have Terms of Service agreements that restrict depiction of objectionable material.

The next step is to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. Learn more about what's being done about online cruelty.

The ASPCA shares your concern about the media's depiction of violence and cruelty toward animals for entertainment purposes. Please know, however, that many of these instances are constitutionally protected free speech—and may not even involve a real animal.

If you are offended by something you viewed, we suggest that you contact the network that aired the program or the publisher of the film in question.

You may also wish to contact the American Humane Association Movie and Television Unit online or at (818) 501-0123. This unit oversees the use of live animals in movies and television as part of an agreement with the Screen Directors Guild.

Racetracks are an exception to the investigatory and arrest powers of ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement. The ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement officers have no jurisdiction at racetracks and normally are not even allowed to enter the grounds. In New York State, cruelty to horses witnessed at racetracks must instead be reported to the New York Racing Association (NYRA), which has its own policelike division in charge of investigating cruelty complaints.

However, investigatory jurisdiction may not be distributed this way in your state. To find out who has the power to investigate cruelty at horse racetracks where you live—as well as at dog tracks, if applicable—your first call should be to whichever agency is endowed with general animal cruelty investigatory and arrest powers. If you are not sure what agency that is, visit our list of anti-cruelty investigatory-arrest powers by state.

You may also wish to directly contact your state's racing and/or wagering bureau (the equivalent of the NYRA in New York) to find out who has jurisdiction at racetracks. Since state racing agencies typically are headed by governor-appointees, your governor's office should be able to steer you in the right direction if you are unsure whom to contact.

The police department that covers your city, town or county is required to investigate criminal complaints, including complaints of animal cruelty and animal fighting. There may also be an animal control agency, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA) or humane society that has authority to conduct these investigations.

If you run into trouble finding the correct agency to contact, you should call or visit your local police department and ask for their help in enforcing the law. If your local police department is unable to assist, you can ask at your local shelter or animal control agency for advice on who to contact to report animal cruelty in your community. To find contact information for your local shelter, check the yellow pages or visit the ASPCA's searchable shelter database of nearly 5,000 community SPCAs, humane societies and animal control organizations.

Reports of animal cruelty can be directed to the police department with jurisdiction over your city, town or county. The New Jersey SPCA also investigates animal cruelty cases. Call (800) 582-5979 or fill out NJSPCA's online form.

ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement can investigate crimes against animals anywhere within the state of New York.

Find out who in your state has the power to arrest for crimes of animal cruelty.

If you live in New York City and need to report animal cruelty, please call 311. To report crimes in progress, please call 911.

Working with Animals

The ASPCA’s volunteer program is vital to our operation, and our volunteers are making an impact in many areas. Today, volunteers assist in the care and placement of the animals housed in our shelter, educate the public and provide support for administrative programs.

Visit ASPCA.org/volunteer for class dates, availability and registration info. All volunteer opportunities are in New York City. Individuals unable to volunteer in New York City should contact their local animal welfare organization. Visit our Shelter Database to find one near you now!

The ASPCA has established many programs that relieve the pain, fear and suffering of animals. At our New York City headquarters, we operate an animal hospital and adoption facility. We also uphold New York State and City animal protection laws through our Humane Law Enforcement Department, which is based in Long Island City. The ASPCA also serves animals through departments such as Legal, Special Events, Fundraising and Development and Consumer Products. In addition, the ASPCA has offices in Urbana, IL, which house the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, and various National Shelter Outreach regional offices across the country.

We encourage candidates who demonstrate outstanding inter-personal communication and the ability to work in a team environment or independently, with a high degree of integrity and accountability.

The ASPCA offers generous benefit packages for full-time employees and (if qualified, we offer domestic partner coverage!) Our benefits include: Medical, Dental, Vision, STD, LTD, 401(k), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Transit checks, Tuition Assistance Program, Training Seminars, EAP, 50% hospital discount, Vacation, Sick, Personal & Company Holiday time off.

If you wish to be considered for a position with our organization, please click on individual job listings for instructions on how to apply.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, Vietnam-era or disabled veteran status in its employment programs and policies.

Can I get a job at the ASPCA? What are some careers with animals?

In NYC

The ASPCA is a national organization located in New York City, and is not affiliated with any other animal agency in the United States. To search for current available positions at the ASPCA or to apply for a position, view our job listings.

Outside NYC

Outside the New York area, check with local animal welfare and humane organizations that are located throughout the United States. Careers in the animal welfare world cover a broad range-from veterinarian, lawyer, marketing associate, writer, animal control officer, etc.

Click here to search for a humane organization near you to inquire about available positions in your area.

The following titles offer further information on learning about careers working with animals:

  • Career Success with Pets, by Kim Barber; Howell Book House, A Simon & Schuster/Macmillan Company; New York, NY, 1996.
  • 105 Careers for Animal Lovers, by Paula Fitzsimmons; PJ Publications; Madison, WI, 2002.
  • The World of Work: Choosing a Career in Animal Care, by Jane Hurwitz; The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc; New York, NY, 1997
  • Careers for Animal Lovers & Other Zoological Types by Louise Miller; VGM Career Horizons, a division NTC Publishing; Lincoln, IL, 1991.
  • Careers for Animal Lovers by Russell Shorto; Choices: The Millbrook Press; Brookfield, CT, 1992.
  • Careers with Animals, The Humane Society of the United States by Willow Ann Sirch; Fulcrum Publishing; Golden, CO, 2000.

Here is an overview of potential careers working with or for animals:

Veterinarian

Being a veterinarian can be a very rewarding career. To become a veterinarian, you'll need to:

  • Go through four years of college, taking pre-med courses like biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics. You'll also need to take some animal-related courses like animal biology, animal nutrition, zoology, etc.
  • Go through four years of veterinary school. Competition for entry is very tough. Schools will look for animal-related experience such as working with a vet in clinics or research or working at a farm, stable, or animal shelter; good grades are essential.

For certain types of veterinary medicine a one-year internship is required, for others an additional 2-3 year residency is required.

Just as there are medical specialties in human medicine, there are medical specialties in veterinary medicine.

For more information, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association at http://www.avma.org/.

Veterinary Technician

A Veterinary Technician is very much like a nurse. A vet tech helps a veterinarian take care of animal patients. To become a vet tech you'll need to graduate from a vet tech program, usually an Associate’s Degree (AA), and pass a state certification exam. Vet techs can work wherever veterinarians work—in animal hospitals, shelters, farms, etc. For more information, contact the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website at http://www.avma.org/. In New York City, contact LaGuardia Community College/CUNY at (718) 482-7206 or http://www.cuny.edu/.

Wildlife Rehabilitator

Another career that involves helping animals heal and recuperate is wildlife rehabilitator. A wildlife rehabilitator takes in wild animals who are injured, sick or orphaned and provides medical and supportive care. If the animal is capable of fending for herself after recovery, the animal is released back into the wild. If the animal cannot care for or feed herself, the animal would be taken to a wildlife refuge. To become a wildlife rehabilitator, you will need to:

  • Take courses and seminars to learn how to care for injured, sick and orphaned wildlife.
  • Complete appropriate coursework established by wildlife rehabilitation associations for certification.
  • Obtain state and federal permits to handle wildlife.

Wildlife rehabilitators can work independently or at animal shelters and wildlife refuges.

Animal Attendant/Kennel Worker

Animal Attendants feed, water, groom, bathe and exercise animals and clean, disinfect and repair their cages. They also socialize animals, provide companionship and observe behavioral changes that could indicate illness or injury. Animal attendants can work at kennels, shelters, hospitals, stables, aquariums and zoological parks. Most of the training for animal attendants is "on-the-job.” In zoos and aquariums, a college degree in biology, animal sciences or a related field is usually required.

Groomer

Like animal attendants, much of a groomer's training is on the job while serving as an apprentice. There are also trade schools that teach grooming skills. Groomers can work in grooming businesses, pet supply stores, animal shelters, stables, etc., wherever animals are. There are no educational standards for groomers and no licensing procedures for groomers. There is a national organization for groomers that offers voluntary certification. For more information, contact the Dog Groomers Association of America at (746) 962-2711 or email ndga@nauticom.net. You may also go to an informational grooming site such as http://www.petgroomer.com/

Dog Walker/Pet Sitter

Today, many people are away from their homes for nine or more hours a day for work. Dogs don't always like to be left alone for such long periods of time, and they need to go out for walks several times a day. Some dog walkers will take out one dog at a time for 15 minutes to an hour. Others will take out many dogs at the same time, sometimes taking them to dog runs and keeping the dogs out, playing for hours.

A similar career would be in doggie day care—working in or running a facility where people drop off their dogs before work and pick them up on their way home. Pet sitters are people who take care of pets when their owners are away on vacation or on business trips. There are no educational or training requirements for any of these positions, but they do require liability insurance and bonding. For more information, contact Pet Sitters International at http://www.petsit.com/ or The Pet Center at http://www.thepetcenter.com/.

Animal Behaviorist/Animal Trainer

An animal trainer is someone who either trains animals or teaches people how to train their own pets. An animal trainer can work in a variety of settings—at animal shows, in animal shelters, training animals for movies and television and training service dogs.

There are no educational standards or licensing requirements for animal trainers. There are training programs, internships and apprenticeships. There are also voluntary certification programs. Animal behaviorists often hold advanced degrees in animal sciences and behavioral principles. Most have Ph.Ds. An animal behaviorist will often deal with behavior problems in animals (separation anxiety, compulsive behaviors, etc.). For more information, contact the following organizations:

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (212) 356-0682

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (800) PET-DOGS

Animal Behavior Society (812) 856-5541

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Humane Educator

Humane Educators vary greatly in terms of their educational backgrounds and experience. A background in education is certainly helpful, but not necessary. Public-speaking skills, the ability to teach others, and a love for children and animals are also helpful. Many humane educators are volunteers or employees of humane organizations, such as the ASPCA. Humane Educators teach others about animals, their needs, their abilities, and aim to instill a respect and reverence for all life.

Therapist

"Therapists" for animals are usually animal behaviorists. They observe an animal's behavior and environmental situation, and if necessary, develop a plan to change the animal's problematic behavior—helping the animal develop "normal" behavior patterns. Animals can also serve as therapists. Many animals are brought into hospitals and nursing homes, and animals can be used to help psychologists reach patients who are socially withdrawn. Interaction with an animal is sometimes offered as a reward for speaking in speech therapy or walking in physical therapy. Brushing an animal can be a physical therapy exercise. The educational requirements for different types of therapists vary. Many volunteers will go through training with their animals to be certified as animal-assisted therapy teams. They will then visit hospitals and nursing homes with their animals. This may be the only "therapeutic" training the person has.

Lobbyist/Lawyer

A lobbyist is someone who tries to influence legislators to pass bills in an area of special interest. Most lobbyists are lawyers. To become a lawyer, one must go through four years of college and earn a bachelor’s degree, then complete three years of law school and earn a law degree (J.D., or jurist doctor).

To practice law in any state, an individual needs to be admitted to the bar, or licensed, in that state. This will require passing a written "bar examination" and, in many states, a written ethics examination. Many lawyers work in more traditional ways for animals, too. Lawyers can work for humane organizations, for individual people, for individual animals. For more information, visit the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Humane Law Enforcement/Animal Control Officer

Another career that involves both the law and animals is Humane Law Enforcement Officer/Animal Control Officer. HLE/AC officers inspect kennels, pet shops, stables and other places where animals are kept to make sure that animal welfare regulations are being followed. HLE/AC officers respond to and investigate reports of animal cruelty. HLE/AC officers also enforce licensing laws and rescue trapped animals.

Requirements for becoming a HLE/AC officer may include a high school diploma, courses in criminology and animal science and on-the-job training (may be similar to police training).

Some states require certification. Contact your local animal agency for information on humane law enforcement and animal control officer positions.

Zoologist

Becoming a zoologist involves a strong interest in animals and a lot of schooling. A graduate degree (Masters or Doctorate) will be required. Zoologists can work in zoos, but can also work in state and federal agriculture departments and animal welfare organizations.

Marine Biologist

Becoming a marine biologist is also a graduate school endeavor. Job competition can be fierce. Marine biologists can work in a variety of settings. International, federal, state and local government agencies hire marine scientists for positions in research, education, management, and legal and policy development.

Fisheries and oil and gas companies hire marine biologists. Environmental advocacy and animal welfare organizations may also hire marine biologists, as may aquariums, zoos and museums.

Publications

There are numerous books and magazines devoted to animals. These publications may employ writers, editors, photographers, illustrators and art directors. Most jobs require a college degree in the liberal arts, with degrees in Communications, Journalism, and English preferred.

Photographer

Working as a photographer requires a good technical understanding of photography and creativity. Entry-level positions in photojournalism may require a college degree in photography. Basic courses in photography cover equipment, processes and techniques. Because these careers seem so glamorous and exciting, there are more artists than jobs for the positions, so training and talent are key to success.