Fireworks and pets
Even though the temperatures certainly haven’t felt like summer, the season for fireworks is right around the corner. The Fourth of July is just a week away, along with the many festivals and family parties that will be happening this summer. For many people, nothing beats lounging in the backyard with good friends and family — including our four-legged members of the household — gazing at a wondrous display of lights. Although an exciting time for most, fireworks can be a source of great fear and danger for animals.
My favorite time of year is the Maine Potato Blossom Festival, but it never ceases to amaze me the number of dogs that are brought to the parade and fireworks, especially on the days that are hot and humid with thousands of people converging on the town. Between the parade sirens and loud fireworks, it is a scary, stressful time for those unfortunate pets whose owners are not thinking.
Remember, dogs’ and cats’ hearing is much more sensitive than ours, so those loud booms can be extremely uncomfortable. Frightened dogs may have different reactions: some tremble at their owners’ feet, others retreat to a hiding place, some try to run off (traveling for miles), and others display bizarre behavior. There are also times when ordinarily well-behaved pets may become aggressive, destructive and/or unpredictable. Scolding or coddling a dog will not help. Scolding will scare and confuse the animal, and coddling serves to reinforce fearful behaviors.
Instead, try to distract the dog from the disturbing noises with physical activity such as playing ball. Taking your dog on a very long walk is another way to expend your dog’s excess energy before the fireworks display, and can help put him/her in a calm state.
Indoor-only animals can often become so frightened during fireworks displays that they take desperate measures to escape the noise, such as breaking through window or door screens. For this reason, you must also make certain your pet is wearing a collar and identification tag with current contact information so you can be reunited quickly if your pet does happen to escape.
There are many family and group activities that are perfect for pets, but a public fireworks display or any other type of gathering where fireworks will be set off usually isn’t one of them. It’s best to make sure and keep all pets safely confined indoors when people may be inclined to set off fireworks. Having a radio or TV at a normal volume indoors may help to dampen jarring noises. If you are unable to leave your pet at home, then bring a travel kennel for the animal to feel safe in.
While exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious pets, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including arsenic, which can be fatal to animals if ingested. Be sure to keep them out of animals’ reach.
Of course, we can’t forget other small animals. If your pets live outside, partly covering cages, pens and aviaries with blankets can help to soundproof the area. It is important to make sure that your pet is still able to look out though. Also, providing lots of extra bedding can allow your pet to have something to burrow in during the festivities.
Taking the necessary safety precautions can ensure that your animals are safe and comfortable during these summer celebrations.
Be sure to stop by the Central Aroostook Humane Society in Presque Isle. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closing for lunch 12-12:30. Be responsible: spay and neuter your pets.
“To err is human, to purr, feline.” — Robert Byrne
Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.