FLORIDA — The Fourth of July might be a great time for gathering with loved ones, but there’s one family member who might not enjoy the holiday: you dog.
Because they have a heightened sense of hearing, the noise that goes hand-in-hand with Independence Day fireworks and celebrations can be “utterly terrifying” for them, according to the American Humane Society.
This makes it a dangerous time for your pooch. Even dogs that are secured with a leash or chain can break loose and jump a high fence when frightened, putting them in harm’s way.
Because of this, July 5 is one of the busiest times of the year at animal shelters across the country, according to the American Kennel Club’s Reunite, which through its history has helped return more than 500,000 lost pets to their owners.
“More pets go missing over July 4 than any other holiday,” the Friends of Strays in St. Petersburg wrote on its Facebook page.
As a pet owner, you can put more control in your hands over the holiday weekend, as “planning ahead will ensure a happy 4th for the whole family,” Florida Aid to Animals shared on Facebook.
Here, from the Humane Society of the United States, are some tips to prepare your dog for the 4th of July:
- Take the pooch on extra-long walks and schedule vigorous play time to tire it out before the festivities begin.
- Leave the dog at home if you and the family go out to watch fireworks displays. It’s best to sequester it inside and make a place where it’s shielded from loud noises. Turn on a radio or television to soften loud noises.
- If you already know the dog is frightened by loud noises, don’t leave it alone while you’re out celebrating. Make sure someone can stay behind with it.
- If you can’t leave your dog unattended, make sure the pooch is leashed and under your direct control at all times.
- Veterinarians may prescribe tranquilizers for dogs that experience high anxiety, or an animal behaviorist can work with pets on their fears.
- There are non-prescription alternatives to calm anxious dogs, such as Thundershirt or other anti-anxiety jackets (they’re made for cats, too) that apply gentle, constant pressure similar to swaddling an infant, the makers say.
According to AKC Reunite said, “keep toys in your pet’s safe area to make the area more fun and to provide distractions from loud noises and flashes.” Soothing music is a good idea, too.
Go into the holiday with a plan on what to do if the dog does bolt in fright. It should have tags and a microchip; but if not, take care of that because it’ll make the search go easier in the event the pet becomes lost. And make sure you have a current photo of your pet to circulate among neighbors.
If a pet does run away, “the very first thing owners need to do is get a search party out and have their cellphone with them,” Harsa of AKC Reunite said. “You should scatter because you don’t know where the pet went.”
Also, check with shelters, including those within a 60-mile radius.
Owners of dogs that are enrolled in a microchip program should contact a designated recovery service in their areas. AKC Reunite has agents available around the clock on July 5 to answer questions and help locate pets.
The organization will call, text and email owners when their pets are found. Take note: There’s a fee to enroll, but since most shelters aren’t open on weekends to run microchip searches, AKC Reunite will have agents working 24/7 on July 5.
A number of online sites help reunite pets with their owners, including:
The Humane Society of the United States cautions pet owners to be wary of pet-recovery scams.
“When talking to a stranger who claims to have found your pet, ask him to describe the pet thoroughly before you offer any information,” the organization advises. “If he does not include the identifying characteristic you left out of the advertisements, he may not really have your pet. Be particularly wary of people who insisted that you give or wire them money for the return of your pet.”