The Scary Reason Animal Shelters Get So Busy On The Fourth Of July

The holiday results in a lot of lost pets. Here's how to protect yours.

The Fourth of July is a day of festive celebrations, but it can take a frightening turn for pet owners.

Fireworks and other loud noises can spook animals and cause them to run away, and big parties with lots of people going in and out can mean it’s easier for cats and dogs to get loose. That’s why multiple animal shelters around the country say July 4 and 5 are some of their busiest days of the year as they take in lots of found animals and deal with panicked owners searching for lost pets.

Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, noted that celebrations throughout the summer can be dangerous for pets.

“The summer months are a busy time for shelters, as many pets are at an increased risk of escape during holiday celebrations because of the crowds, loud noises, and open doors and windows,” she told HuffPost in an email. “The most important thing you can do for your pet this holiday weekend is to be sure they have a visible ID tag with your up-to-date contact information.”

Fireworks and chaotic parties can make the Fourth of July a stressful time for pets.
Susanne Friedrich via Getty Images
Fireworks and chaotic parties can make the Fourth of July a stressful time for pets.

Pet owners should also have their pets microchipped, she said. A microchip is is a tiny ID device implanted under the skin. If a pet is found and taken to a shelter or veterinarian, they can scan the pet for a microchip that would provide contact information on the owner, which is why it’s crucial to make sure that your pet’s microchip information is updated.

This year, at least one animal shelter has tried to get ahead of the lost-pet rush. California’s San Diego County Animal Services is offering free microchips for dogs in the days leading up to the Fourth of July.

Dogs can get so freaked out by fireworks that they may become panicked and “do anything” to try to escape, Daniel DeSousa, director of the San Diego County Department of Animal Services, said in a news release. “That includes digging under, climbing over or even breaking through gates, screens, fences, windows and doors.” Last year, about 60 dogs came into San Diego County shelters around July 4.

Weiss told HuffPost that people should make sure to not bring their pets to fireworks shows. Instead, they should create a quiet, comfortable and secure place for their pets inside their homes. If people are hosting a party, they should ensure their pets are able to relax in a controlled area away from the crowd.

Experts also recommend exercising your dogs earlier in the day so that they are calmer before fireworks start.

“A tired dog is a more relaxed dog,” animal trainer Nicole Ellis told HuffPost previously. She added that if your pup does run and hide within your home, you shouldn’t force it to come out, which can make your pet even more distressed. Like Weiss, she emphasized keeping pets at home and making sure your animal has proper ID.

It’s also crucial that cats remain indoors on the holiday, cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy told “Today.” Cats have extremely sensitive hearing, which can make fireworks and other sudden, loud sounds terrifying. Galaxy recommended that owners create a cat sanctuary in a quiet room filled with comforting items, like a cat’s bed and objects that smell like the cat or the cat’s favorite person. If there’s a lot of noise outside, it can be helpful to use a TV or radio to create a low level of distracting sound.

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