Fireworks Are Fun for Humans, But a ‘Special Sort of Horror’ For Pets

Here are practical tips from Pasadena Humane’s Jack Hagerman on how to get your pet through the Fourth of July with the least trauma
Published on Jul 3, 2021

The Fourth of July is a wondrous celebration of our nation’s history, but the fifth of July is typically the busiest day of the year for Pasadena Humane.

The nonprofit dedicated to animal well-being typically sees a massive influx of strays on July 5, frightened creatures which ran from their homes in fear, disoriented by the Fourth’s faux bombardment of their neighborhood.

“It’s the time of the year that we see the most animals going stray because they’re freaked out — they just want to get away from the noise,” said Jack Hagerman, Pasadena Humane’s vice president of community engagement. “They will jump out windows, they will escape through doorways and they’ll climb under the fence … anything to get away from the horror that they perceive as coming at them.”

“Loud noises and fireworks shows affect dogs a lot, but also affect cats. A lot of cats tend to go stray around that time as well. They’ll hide for long periods of time. So you might not see your cat for a couple of days,” he said.

Hagerman offered a list of practical suggestions for pet owners to help their furry family members get through the Fourth of July with less trauma:

  • Make sure that you do all of your walks with your dogs at the beginning of the day, rather than at the end of the day, because when pets on a leash get spooked they can become pretty unpredictable. It’s just best not to put yourself in that situation to begin with, and not do any dog-walking at night when the festivities are going on.

  • You definitely don’t want to take pets outside during any fireworks shows because the noise is amplified outside and it will just add to their anxiety, so you want to keep them safe and sound inside your home. If you’re going to be going to an outdoor barbecue with friends or family, or to a fireworks display, leave your pet at home in a safe, secured room.

  • Turn on some ambient noise, like the air conditioner, because that’s good white noise. On top of that, consider playing music or turn up the TV with the volume up a bit higher than usual. Create a “safety zone” for your pets, inside your home.

  • There are calming aids that you can buy over the counter, such as chamomile, that are safe to give pets during this time, just to kind of mellow them out a little bit before the festivities begin.

  • Make sure that your pet is wearing a collar with proper identification and that their chip information is up to date so that if, God forbid, they do go stray, we can reunite you that much faster.

The Fourth of July may be terrifying for most animals, but it’s also a tough night for pet owners who often must choose between staying home to comfort the pet or going to see their annual fireworks display. Frequently the runaways happen while the family is away from home watching a fireworks show, Hagerman said.

Pasadena Humane’s phones will start ringing first thing in the morning on July 5th, Hagerman said. In many cases, its owners whose pets are gone and many other calls are from people who see lost animals on the streets.

Hagerman said these dangers of the Fourth are more reasons for pet owners to keep their information up to date.

“Double-check that the contact information on your pet’s microchip is current. And making sure that they are wearing a collar, particularly during this month,” he said.

“Usually we’re available to reach out immediately and we can reunite the pet owner with their pet pretty quickly,” Hagerman has said. “When they’re not microchipped we just have to wait. When animals come into the shelter we post their photos online so people have access to it when they’re searching, hopefully, they’ll see it online and they can all be reunited.”

Hagerman has said the organization owes a debt of gratitude to the volunteers, who step up at this time of the year. He added that the Humane Society has a volunteer drive twice a year for those interested in helping.

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