Nothing is more identified with the Fourth of July or summer celebrations than the display of fireworks.
I love the beauty of fireworks—the excitement and the celebratory nature. But as a caregiver of pets, I despise the private and sometimes illegal backyard fireworks, which often take a toll on animals. I can manage planned fireworks with calming medicine, clothing or loud music—but not the random, louder-is-better explosions that set dogs on edge and panic them to the point of danger.
According to the American Humane Society, July 5 is the busiest day of the year for shelters finding companion animals that fled in fear—breaking chains, jumping fences and running miles away in abject panic.
Being prepared is important. There are some basic steps to take to keep your beloveds safe:
• Microchip your animal, and make sure that your name and phone number are up to date. Update your dog’s information on their collar tags, too.
• Make an animal-emergency binder that includes your pet’s name(s), breed, weight, medical issues, prescriptions, veterinarian, microchip information and current photos. Good photos of every animal are especially important for identification; make sure pictures and descriptions are as current as possible.
• Talk to your vet if you know your animal is fearful of loud sounds in advance of a holiday. Your vet is the best source for advice and, if necessary, medication to help provide a more calming experience.
• Consider using CBD oil, like VetCBD or hemp oil, to calm them (and perhaps yourself). Start at least a week in advance. Do your research on the quality of the product before you buy.
• Provide a calming inside environment—with music, blankets and, if possible, you. Set up beds and blankets in closets or under the beds as safe hiding spaces. Expect possible accidents. Be calm yourself, as your anxiety can create anxiety in your pet. If you can’t be home, make sure pets can’t break a window or open a door.
• Check your fencing and gates to confirm that there is not an easy way out. You would be amazed at how strong terrified animals are.
• Make sure you have a safe, confined indoor space for your cats.
• Walk your pets just before dusk/dark so that they will not need to go out during the fireworks. A pet can bolt from a leash, even if it’s never happened before.
• Be on alert when outside after you hear fireworks. There may be more animals around than usual—and they may be agitated.
Even if you take all these precautions, animals can get loose. Understand that your pet may be panicked and full of adrenaline, and may act more feral than domestic. If your pet goes missing, post on social media; tell people in your neighborhood; and ask people to report sightings. Babs Fry, founder of A Way Home for Animals, Inc.—and an extraordinary animal finder—recommends that you don’t walk around, because that will spread your scent, diminishing a key ingredient in bringing your pet home. Open your doors, and put dirty clothes outside. Ask your neighbors to help you look. Ask people to report sightings of your dog. Do not run after the dog or yell at it. Patience and calm are key.
Make sure you know the names of the shelters in the area. If your dog or cat does not come home, contact the shelters, and look at their Facebook pages and websites. In our area, there is Coachella Valley Animal Campus (in Thousand Palms), the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Desert Hot Springs Animal Care and Control, the Humane Society of the Desert (in North Palm Springs), Loving All Animals (in Coachella) and Animal Samaritans. Post on Facebook pages in the community in which you live. Contact your veterinarian.
You may come across stray animals. Be careful approaching them, but try to bring them to a safe place. The best place is an animal shelter, because some people do not use social media. If you can’t get the animal, please call animal control, and ask for help. Someone is missing their dog or cat.
It’s important to keep your pet safe all year long—but especially during holidays. Show them love by giving them the protection they deserve.
Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.