Historically, July 5th is the highest in-take day of lost pets through animal control agencies and shelters across the United States. The simple explanation is because pets are afraid of fireworks.
Fireworks are loud, startling, scary and make many of our pets run away. Because they’re running due to fear, they often run so fast and so far that by the time they’ve stopped, they are lost and don’t remember how to get home. Also, this type of frantic behavior is dangerous because they may run out into traffic or straight into another family’s exploding fireworks.
It can be fun for humans to celebrate this holiday, but it can be terrifying and tragic for pets. Here are some tips for keeping your pets safe on the Fourth of July.
1. Keep pets indoors. Don’t let them door dash. Ask any visitors to be sure the doors are shut as they come in and out. And make sure any doggy doors or cat flaps are closed and secure. If they have a lock, use it. If not, you may need to block it with something else.
2. If you have pets that must be outside, keep them in the backyard not frontyard (with plenty of water! it’s hot out there!) and check that all gates are securely closed and locked throughout the day. Don’t just check once. Check repeatedly. Somebody else may use the gate and not know that it needs to be locked. And make sure that pets can’t get over any fences or walls.
3. Don’t take them to public places or friends’ houses anytime that day. Remember that people set off fireworks all day long, not just at night. So even though you may have the day off work, it will be safer to skip that hike or trip to the dog park on the Fourth of July. And it may seem like a Norman Rockwell image for your whole family -including your dogs or snakes or ferrets- to sit in the park, with a blanket and watch the fireworks. Humans can do that. Just please leave your pets at home.
4. Don’t rely on a leash. When animals are truly scared, even the most perfectly leash-trained pet can get away from you. And pets that travel in strollers may seem safely zipped inside, but they will panic, too, and may hurt themselves trying to escape.
5. Make sure all pets’ collars are on securely and that name tags, rabies tags, phone numbers, microchip tags, etc. are all up to date. If they do escape, they will be more easily identified and hopefully returned to you quickly. But any pets without identification will have a much more difficult time finding their way home. Remember that they can’t speak for themselves. Let their tags speak for them. And don’t use the excuse that your pet doesn’t like the collar or won’t wear it. Everyone can make an exception for at least this one day each year.
6.Double check with your microchip registry that they have you as the primary contact and that your phone number and email address are correct. Also, if you’re going out of town or will be difficult to reach, make sure the microchip registry has a secondary emergency contact to call if they can’t reach you.
7. Make sure you have recent photos of all of your pets: both face and full body photographs. We all have adorable photos we take for fun, but if a pet is missing, you will need clear pictures to help identify them or use in online notices and posters.
8. Locate your pets’ rabies vaccination records and microchip numbers. In addition to photos, you may need them to help prove that your pet is really yours.
9. Finally, if you’re going out of town for the holiday (or any time), make sure that your pet is safely boarded someplace that you trust implicitly or that a friend or pet sitter is coming over at least once per day. And not just to check on your pets, but to make sure that doors and gates are locked and secure. A pet that is left alone may already be nervous and the fireworks are only going to make that worse.
Here’s to a safe and happy Fourth of July to all pets and people!