For most Americans, July 4 means parades, parties, potato salad, and patriotism. But America’s birthday means something quite different to animal shelters across the country.
While you’re out shooting off bottle rockets and capping off celebrations at a firework show, shelter intake centers and city animal control officers are prepping for July 5 — what is annually the busiest day of the year for shelter intakes.
Donna Reynolds, director of an animal advocacy group based in Oakland, Calif., explains that pets are often so terrified of fireworks that they run away from home.
“They escape through gates, doors, and even windows,” she says. “And because they’re scared, they head for the hills, literally, and run as fast as they can until they are completely lost.”
Riverside County Animal Services in Riverside, California reports that the Independence Day holiday yields some pretty grim statistics for their department. By their calculations, which include Independence Day, the two days before and two days after the holiday, the department took in a whopping 2,088 dogs — both alive and, tragically, dead.
Officers remove hundreds of dead dogs and cats from roadways in their cities on the 5th of July. They speculate that the pets, frightened by loud fireworks and firecrackers, escaped from homes and backyards and onto busy streets.
“We’d like to see these terrible numbers start to downtrend,” says Riverside County Animal Services Director Robert Miller, “but the reality is that we’re still seeing far too many strays and, even worse, people’s dead pets.”
The average number of intakes for Riverside County Animal Services during the Fourth of July holiday is 2,080 impounds.
Hayward Animal Services shelter Administrator Jennie Comstock says that the high number of intakes at their shelter forces the organization to seek help from rescue groups and local SPCA chapters.
“Last year, we got twice as many animals coming in on July 5 as we did the day before,” Comstock says.
Before you put on your stars-and-stripes cowboy hat and join your buddies for beer and bratwurst at the neighborhood Fourth of July party, make sure that you are taking the proper precautions to keep your kitty safe this holiday:
- Keep your cats confined inside your house in a cool, comfortable, and secure room.
- Do not let your cats roam outside and definitely do not bring them to fireworks displays and large parties — they could get spooked by the loud noises and bolt.
- Try leaving the television, radio or white noise machine on to provide some background noise. This could muffle some of the startling bangs and booms from the celebrations outside.
- Make sure that your cat’s license, identification tags, and microchip information are up-to-date in the event that he or she manages to escape. Also, have a current photo of your cat on hand, which could come in handy if you have to make a “lost cat” flyer.
- If you know that, even when he or she is secure inside, your cat is extremely frightened by loud noises, consult your veterinarian about medications that can help relax your pup. And if all else fails, stay home from the parties and keep and eye on your kitty in person. Nothing is more comforting than mom or dad’s presence.