Pet Holiday Safety

By Hannah RhombergMike's iphone 012913 168

With Christmas rapidly approaching, it’s not too late to do some last minute shopping for your furry family members! However, for the same reason you buy age-appropriate toys for children due to choking hazards and toxic material, you need to be cautious and buy animal-friendly toys and treats for your fuzzy friends. And while you’re busy stuffing stockings and your face with vegan fruit cake, it’s never a bad idea to take a look around your house for hazardous Christmas decorations.  It’s also an opportunity to support some great companies that make animal friendly toys.  You may even try to make some toys or treats yourself.

Toys, to dogs and cats, are not just for fun but a necessity in their lives. Dogs, for example, innately need to chew. It’s how they explore their world. While there are ways to curb this behavior, when it becomes destructive, one simple approach is to supply them with an appropriate chew toy. When selecting a chew toy for your friend, remember to select an appropriate size. Kong toys for example run from XS to XXL and with varying degrees of durability to match your pup’s need.

When it comes to chewing, some pet owners pick up a rawhide for their pet’s stocking to tackle that chewing urge. However, rawhide is a byproduct of fur and leather trade. Not to mention, in order to achieve the white coloring or holiday Christmas colors, these rawhides are coated with chemicals that your pets are ultimately ingesting.  Read here for further details on rawhide.  There are several safer chewy alternatives for rawhide. Two examples are Antos Farm Rolls and Sweet Potato Treats which you can buy or make yourself.

Got a dog that loves to play fetch? A new tennis ball for Christmas is the perfect gift! However, one danger of tennis balls, especially to larger breeds, is the possibility of the ball becoming lodged in their throats. In fact, balls made it onto this list of the top 10 items ingested by pets by accident. Number six on the above list is chew toys, which as mentioned previously, should be purchased with your dogs size and chewing capabilities in mind to avoid this mishap.

Another thing to consider when buying pet toys, especially plastic or rubber toys that are brightly colored is where the material and dye is sourced from. A little known fact about pet toys is that the FDA does not regulate any of these products. So we as consumers are to rely on the honesty of a company.

Some good companies with materials sourced here in the United States are:


Planet Dog

West Paw Design

The Humane Society of the United States offers some tips and recommendations for toy purchases for dogs and cats.

For dogs they recommend meeting your animals needs for being active, being distracted, and being comforted.  A few items they recommend are hard rubber toys (like Nylabone® and Kong®), rope toys,  “Busy-Box” toys, and even items that simply smell like you, such as an old t-shirt or pillow case.

For cats they give some tips on toys and also some warnings about other household items your cats might like to play with that are dangerous. Some household items your cats may safely enjoy are plastic curtain rings, paper bags (with the handles removed), and cardboard tubes and boxes.  You can make your own toys like felt animals stuffed with catnip.  When purchasing toys you might be able to make simple alterations, like removing any pieces that might come loose and could be swallowed, to make them safer.

It may seem “cheap” to give your cat a cardboard box  or your dog an old t-shirt for the holidays, but they don’t care about price!  One of Sara’s cat’s beloved items is a big basket she got for the holidays several years ago that was originally filled with grapefruit.  She lined it with a blanket and now it’s the cat’s favorite spot to snooze.

If you want to try making your own animal friendly treats for your dog(s) or for a friend’s canine companion(s), there are many recipes online. Simply search for “dog treat recipes” or “vegetarian/vegan dog treat recipes”. The recipes can vary in complexity from simple mix and bake, to decorated fancy cupcakes – though humans will usually appreciate decorations more than the dog will.  This website  has just a few example recipes for making treats.  Scroll to the bottom of the page for the recipes.

Another aspect of the holidays to consider when it comes to your pets, are your household Christmas decorations:

  • Lilies – Just one or two bites can result in acute kidney failure
  • Mistletoe – While usually placed high enough out of a pet’s reach, if ingested in large amounts, can result in seizures and death.Plastic plants can look very realistic if you need to get the feel of these holiday plants without the danger.  Non-toxic garland might also be a good choice.
  • Imitation snow on trees – If ingested, can be very hazardous to pet health
  • Edible ornaments – Everyone has made mom a macaroni ornament! However, the glue and paint on these can be very harmful to pets. Hang with caution and/or keep out of pets reach.
  • Christmas lights – Keep away from a chewing pet as this can result in electrical shock.
  • Tinsel – one of the most harmful due to its likelihood to cause a potentially deadly intestinal blockage.

When decorating there are some precautions you can take. Several tips for safety proofing your tree can be found here.  They include ideas for keeping the light cords hidden and taped , keeping fragile and glass ornaments hung higher on your tree, and securing your tree with fishing wire so it is less likely to tip over.  Some ways to discourage your pet from climbing a tree or knocking down ornaments are using scented repellents, paw repellents under the trees (like aluminum foil or spiky mats), climb blockers, and training.

The winter holidays are a time for family gatherings, whether your family is all-human or you have companion animal family members as well. Safety around the holiday season is important for everyone and everything, so with these few tips I hope your holiday season is full of joy and merriment.

Happy “Howlidays” from my family to yours!!


How to Keep Pets Safe at Christmas

Dog Toys:  How to Pick the Best and Safest

Cat Toys

Choosing Safe Dog Toys

Tennis Ball Danger

Best and Safest Dog Toys

Top 10 Holiday Decorations to Avoid

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats & Dogs?


Making Chocolate Candy

By Sara Andrews

It’s almost a universal truth that everyone loves chocolate – not everyone of course, but most of us. It can be relatively easy to find dark chocolate bars free of dairy – but even those sometimes contain animal sourced products (usually milk fat). There are a lot of other types of animal-free chocolate candies you can only get from specialty stores online or not at all. This is where I like to step in and make my own.


Chocolate Covered Cherries, Peanut Butter Cups, and Chocolate Topped with Pumpkin Spice

Making chocolate candies can be a bit messy – but I find it is worth it in the end and only something I do once or twice a year.  These work great for gifts and holiday gatherings as well.   You don’t need any fancy equipment or tools to do it.

The hardest part is deciding what kind of chocolate to make. A few of my favorites are chocolate covered nuts, chocolate covered gelatin-free marshmallows, and peanut butter cups. I also like making chocolate covered fruit like strawberries and cherries.  

Unless you are extremely ambitious and want to make your own from scratch the first thing you need is chocolate. Fortunately, finding dairy-free chocolate chips has gotten easier over the years. If you live in a rural area they can be ordered online or even purchased at some chain grocers. You can use any other type of chocolate bars as well. It’s easy to melt chocolate chips and I like semi-sweet so that’s why I prefer them.

Many chocolates can be produced without a mold but for peanut butter cups it’s ideal to have one or two. You can buy inexpensive plastic molds at any place that sells candy making supplies. I got mine at Michael’s craft store about a dollar each. You can also buy nicer silicone ones if you decide chocolate making is your thing.

With just a metal or glass bowl and a sauce pan you can make your own double boiler to melt your chocolate. There’s a short video on how to do this here. Tip: It’s really important to keep moisture out of your chocolate. It will cause issues. Sadly, I know this from experience. Make sure your bowl is dry before adding the chocolate!

Once your chocolate is melted you can dip items into the chocolate and remove them with a spoon. Make sure you are placing them on a non-stick surface like wax paper so they can cool. It’s that simple. This works for nuts, fruit, and vegan marshmallows (I always choose Dandies because they are stable at room temperature and delicious).


Pecan Clusters, Chocolate with Peppermint, Etc.

If you want to make more complex filled chocolates like peanut butter cups it’s a two-step process. You coat the inside of the mold with a thin layer of chocolate; I usually do this using a small measuring spoon. Then you let that cool. Sometimes I speed the process by putting it in the refrigerator. Then add your filling of choice – I’ve used coconut milk caramel, peanut butter mixed with powdered sugar, and pumpkin spice mix. Top the mold with chocolate and let cool.

Once they are cool you can pop them out and you are done! Depending on your filling these are usually good for several weeks IF they last that long without being devoured.


Podcasts for People Who Love Animals

By Sara Andrews

Those who already listen to podcasts probably already know that they are a great way to read a favorite book while doing the dishes, keep up on important news while driving or busing to work, or just relaxing on a free night while listening to your favorite radio show on your own time – all for free.  (Though there are some podcasts that charge, the ones listed here do not – though they do take donations to cover production costs if you so desire.)

I do all these things but one of my favorite things to use podcasts for is learning more about animals and to gain information on current topics and news in animal rights – and even to enjoy some entertainment with a vegan flare.

There are lots of ways to listen to podcasts: you can download or stream them through free phone apps or listen to them on your computer.  Some sites allow you to listen by simply clicking a button on that episode, whereas some require iTunes or another service to listen. I use an android app called BeyondPod – but there are many others to chose from.

These are my four top picks (two related) – if you love other podcasts not listed here, please add them in the comments.

Our Hen House

This podcast  is how I keep on top of all the happenings.  New cookbooks, legal developments, recent protests, and what is happening around the world in animal news.  It’s also very fun to listen to, and while the co-hosts talk about some really serious topics, they break it down into manageable pieces and include humor as well. The hosts are Jasmin and Mariann. Not to downplay Jasmin, but Mariann is a lawyer and an adjunct professor of animal law at Columbia Law School – we’ll get back to that in a minute.

Vegetarian Food for Thought

This podcast holds a special place in my heart.  As I was in the process of switching from vegetarian to vegan (actually right after I transitioned to vegan) I started listening to this podcast to give me resolve – and it did!

The host, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, (with whom many of you are already familiar) is definitely one of the most knowledgeable and best advocates for animals due to her passion, compassion, long-term activism in the movement, and pure knowledge of information. She has several cookbooks out as well as many video resources – and some other helpful books (30 Day Vegan Challenge is just one).

The strength of this podcast is that it has been being produced for a long time and covers such an amazing breadth and depth of topics. If you need more information on specific subject – communicating with friends and family, being burnt out, inspiration, well-researched health information, and many others – this is your place to look and listen.

Most of her episodes are also available through youtube.

Big Fat Vegan Radio

This is one of my absolute favs because it’s a lot lighter in tone than the other ones I listen to. While it talks about important animal issues, it’s more geared towards community, interviews, humor and entertainment than the others listed here (though many incorporate these qualities as well).

And a bonus – one of the hosts (Ben/Honey) is from Wisconsin. Full disclosure: I’ve known Ben (Honey) since we were in high school, but we became involved in animal rights separately.




Ben(Honey) from Big Fat Vegan Radio at Heartland Farm Sanctuary



Animal Law

This is a new podcast that meets a very specific need. This is animal news and discussion in the realm of law, something I’m particularly interested in.  Mariann from Our Hen House is the host. They talk about animal litigation, care standards, animals in research, and this is just the beginning.

Bonus Podcast:  The Alternative Vegan

First, a slight warning that this podcast can include “adult” language. This podcast is not currently active, but the blog is. As for the podcast, it’s worth going back and accessing the old episodes.

This is a cooking podcast and the reason I love it so much is it talks about HOW to cook: techniques, what herbs and spices are good for, baking tips, all about oil, etc.  I also really like the fact that Dino doesn’t use a lot of the “reproduction” products: non-dairy milk/butter, vegan meats, etc. Although I enjoy these products, they factor too heavily into some cookbooks for my taste.

I hope you check some of these out – especially look through the back episodes. There are some GREAT ones in there  and you are sure to find many episodes you want to listen to for hours of fun and learning. Happy listening!

Five Easy Ways to Give to the Alliance This Season

Vegan Holiday Bake Sale and Craft Fair

Participate by either contributing something to the sale or stopping buy to buy a treat or two.  If you’re able to bake something, please email Becky Koechell at

Vegan Bake Sale

Facebook Event Page:  Holiday Vegan Bake Sale – December 20th

Shop at Calico Dragon Bags and Envision Positive

Calico Dragon Bags

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for the animal lover/vegan or vegetarian in your life? Or a little special gift for yourself because you’ve been oh so good all year? Look no further!

Calico Bags is now offering cruelty-free, vegan bags, purses, totes and wallets. A generous 25 percent will be donated to the Alliance and shipping is completely free!

Not only will you be able to support the Alliance, but also help spread messages about the abuse animals go through in circuses, the plight of animals in labs and factory farms, the horrors within the fur industry, and more.

The bags are 100% cruelty-free, completely vegan and constructed from up-cycled materials. Heavy duty construction along with a bold message presented in an artistic fashion make these bags truly unique!

Calico Dragon also donates a portion of its proceeds to animal charities around the world.

Please contact Becky at for ordering details.


Envision Positive

The month of December, Envision Positive will donate 50% of proceeds to the Alliance!


Envision Positive features varied crafts inspired by the vision of a vegan society, and supports the expansion of veganism for the benefit of all living beings. The crafts make great gifts and can be customized for any occasion. 50% of profits are given to a designated vegan advocacy organization every month and all items are made in a home that is loving, vegan and eco-friendly.

Use your Amazon Account

When you shop at AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Alliance for Animals and the Environment. Bookmark this link and support us every time you shop.

Stop by our Small Online Store for Shirts and Stickers

We don’t have many shirts with our logo on them left so get them while they’re hot.

Alliance for Animals Shop

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And of course – the simplest way to give to the Alliance is by a direct donation – all you get for that is warm fuzzies and the knowledge that your money will go to help animals.

Click here for our online donation form and information.