Keeping pets safe at the holidays: 5 things to know

Owl - German Shepherd

The wise and watchful Owl (A505701) is the perfect companion for someone looking for the perfect gentle-pup. Calm and gentle on a leash, 4-year-old Owl likes to lean up against her handlers for pats and scritches. Owl is hoping to find a foster home for the holidays. If you are interested in fostering Owl, email

In last week’s column, I put out a plea for foster families to provide a “Home for the Holidays,” especially for the many large dogs in our care. I am pleased and thankful to report that a dozen families responded and are providing the comfort and joy of a loving home this holiday season.

In fact, a few families have already “foster failed,” which isn’t a failure at all, but our affectionate term for the most positive of outcomes. These foster families have made a commitment to providing a permanent home by adopting their foster pets.

We want to keep this momentum going, so next week on December 13, we will launch “Twelve Dogs of Christmas.” Our hope is to place 12 more large dogs into homes before December 25.

As a reminder, when you foster a pet from Pasadena Humane, we provide all the supplies and support you’ll need throughout your foster pet’s stay. To ensure you pet’s needs are always met, we offer a 24/7 foster emergency hotline.

To help keep all pets safe and happy this holiday season, here are a few essential rules to keep in mind that will help you avoid a pet emergency.

  • Deck the Halls: Holiday foliage — like holly, ivy, lilies, mistletoe, poinsettias — can harm our pets if ingested. If you aren’t able to keep a careful eye on your pets at all times, opt for artificial plants or pet-safe alternatives like Christmas cacti, moth orchids or majesty palms instead.
  • O Christmas Tree: Pine needles and tree water can cause severe gastrointestinal issues if ingested. Climbing cats may cause your Christmas conifer to tip over, leading to damage or injury. Anchored artificial trees offer a more pet-friendly option, but be careful with flocking, which could cause tummy upset if ingested in large amounts.
  • (No) Tinsel Town: Shimmering bobbles and glittering strands may attract curious pets. Tinsel is a feline favorite but can prove deadly if ingested. Hang fragile and breakable ornaments out of your pet’s reach.
  • Light Up the Night: Candles are an essential part of many holiday traditions, but they can lead to burns or fire if left unattended with our pets. Play it safe by opting for one of the many varieties of flameless candles. Also, hide or secure electric cords to avoid chewing.
  • Food and Drink: Keep pets away from your holiday feasts which may cause indigestion or worse. Cooked bones should never be given as a treat because they can splinter once consumed. Also, chocolate Santas — chocolate of any kind — are a definite no-no.

With these safety tips in mind, there are many ways to bring joy to both you and your pets at this festive time of year. Walks together are a wonderful way to connect with neighbors and avoid putting on pounds from all the festivities. One of my favorite activities is simply snuggling on the couch with my adopted dog Sueshi and watching classic holiday movies.

If you would like to experience the unconditional love and adoration of a shelter dog this season, please email You just might find it’s a feeling you would like to have every day of the year. Remember, we won’t mind if you “foster fail”!

Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on December 9, 2022.