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Keeping four-legged friends from spooking

Their names are Spooky and Midnight, and they arrived not long before Halloween.

In fact, Wanda Shultz says she spotted them in a tree after she'd put up her Halloween decorations. Both are black. Ooooh! Could they actually be witches lurking around Shultz's place, waiting to snatch up children who should come along trick or treating?

If so, they're awfully friendly witches. They took immediately to a visitor who scratched their silky black fur as they lounged in the sun. They appeared interested in snatching up mice, at most.

But an animal shelter manager says Halloween is a time we should take care to keep pets safe _ and to keep people safe from them.

"There's always rumors of Satanic rituals" involving animals on Halloween, said Sheri Macdonald, shelter manager for Pasco County's Humane Society.

More mundane concerns are more common.

"Don't give your pets candy," Macdonald said. Chocolate, in particular, is poisonous to dogs and must be kept out of their reach.

"If you're going to take your pet trick or treating, keep them on leashes," she suggested. She also mentioned putting reflectors on collars.

"It's even a risk for people being around," she said, referring to pets that may become agitated by lots of visitors.

So pets ought to be chained in the back yard or kept otherwise separated from the young ghouls and goblins who show up on the front porch clamoring for treats.

"As far as pets being at risk," Macdonald said, "I would say you'd need to exercise a little extra caution."