Pet lovers lined up at the North Beach Bandshell to get a quick picture with the pope — an 8-year-old Shih Tzu named Mobley that donned a gold headpiece and red robe at the Miami Beach Food Truck Music Fest Howl’oween Dog Parade.
“I try to find unique costumes every year,” said Mobley’s owner, Krupa Hemraj. “He doesn't move much, so it’s so much fun to do.”
Dozens of dogs showed off their costumes — from sharks to skeletons to superheroes — at Wednesday’s Halloween pet parade for a chance to win squeakie toys and doggie frozen yogurt. It was the bandshell’s first dog parade.
Gaby Fernandez, director of the Front Yard Theater Collection and parade emcee, said the idea came to her after buying her own dog a Wonder Woman costume.
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“People love their dogs,” she said.
Indeed, they do. Especially at Halloween, when 20 million Americans plan to dress up their pets in costumes this year, according to the National Retail Federation. And they’re expected to spend a whopping $350 million on garb for their furry friends, the Federation reports. (Total spending on Halloween this year is estimated at $6.9 billion.)
Millennials lead the trend. Twenty percent of millenials will deck out their pet this year, compared with 13 percent for the general population, the Retail Federation reports.
Total U.S. pet-industry expenditures have increased steadily over the past two decades, according to data by the American Pet Products Association. In 2014, Americans spent about $58 billion on their pets.
Pet owners — some of whom also dressed up for the Miami Beach parade — pranced their costumed pups in front of three judges at the Miami Beach parade. The dogs competed in several categories, including funniest, scariest and best overall costume.
King Midas, a 3-month-old French bulldog, sported a Spider-man costume to match his owner, Jeff Garcia. Garcia said he loved the idea of the parade and thought it would be fun to dress up.
He never thought they’d take home the top prize of the evening — best overall costume and a frozen yogurt for King Midas.
But whether the pets enjoy donning additional layers is questionable.
“Just because you’ve bought a really funny costume doesn’t mean your animal wants anything to do with it,” said Dr. Emily Patterson-Kane, an animal welfare scientist with the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Dr. Patty Khuly, veterinarian and owner of Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami, says there are downsides to dressing up for the occasion. Khuly writes the pets column in the Miami Herald.
“People’s tendency to make pets a part of the family is a wonderful thing, but one side of that is the humanization of the pet, which leads to treating dogs and cats like human infants. We have to recognize that they’re a different species,” she said. “They are not little humans.”
To ensure pets’ safety and comfort, Patterson-Kane suggests “sensible precautions” like: Make sure the costume fits properly; does not block sight, hearing or breathing; does not overheat the body; and contains no loose parts that could be eaten.
“Be sure you’re sensitive to what your dog is doing with its body language,” she added. “It’s a matter of having our fun in a way that it’s a fun activity with the animal.”