You, your pets, and the Fourth of July

Every holiday has its own set of pet safety tips associated with it. Christmas tips, for example, tend to list the variety of things your pet is liable to eat or chew — everything from overly rich holiday foods to tree decorations and electrical extension cords. Halloween is all about candy, especially chocolate, and small humans in strange and distressing costumes.

The Fourth of July — with all its special circumstances, including parades, summer heat, BBQs, trips to the beach or campground, and, of course, fireworks — can give even the most well-balanced pet parent a case of the shakes. But fear not, a little common sense will get you and your best friend through the commotion and festivities just fine.

Remember, the Fourth, by design and custom, is supposed to be a boisterous celebration of national identity, so even if you tone down your own celebration, chances are the kid living two houses over will have a collection of bottle rockets and firecrackers capable of sending Pudums under the bed and Tramp over the fence.

Here are a few practical precautions:

1. Hopefully your pets are already microchipped. Even if they are, a visible collar ID tag is an essential safety item to ensure an easy return if he or she does bolt due to the noise or takes off in pursuit of a rabbit at the campground. If you don’t have an ID tag on your pet, get one. If you can’t get to a store, you can MacGyver a quickie tag out of a business card or even a Post-It and some clear packing tape affixed to a collar.

2. Pets are usually not big fans of crowd noise, explosions, marching bands and fire trucks. I strongly recommend that you resist the temptation to dress your dog like Uncle Sam and drag him or her off to the local parade or fireworks display. These are stressful situations and can even be dangerous. A normally placid pet may easily freak out and run or even bite the unwitting stranger waving a flag next to you. It’s best to stay home with your animal friends if you can. If you have to leave them for a couple of hours, turn up the TV and your music system a bit higher than normal to drown out the noise of fireworks.

3. If you do let off fireworks at your home — a bad idea if you have animals — be sure your pets are safe and under control at all times. There are some effective homeopathic and herbal essences that can do wonders for de-stressing your pet. Ask you vet or your local pet supply store for the right preparations.

4. Clean up any firework remnants. Even spent fireworks have toxic chemical residue on the paper wrappings.

5. Take special care around the BBQ, especially if alcohol is on the menu. It’s easy to get careless and allow pets to get into things they shouldn’t, like packages of hot dogs or buns wrapped in plastic, not to mention matches or lighter fluid, which can be toxic or cause skin irritations. And, of course, keep your pet away from any alcoholic beverages, which can do serious damage.

6. If the beach is your gig, do not to apply sunblock to your pets unless it is specifically intended for their use, but be aware that extended exposure to hot sun is not great for animals.

7. If you are reasonably attentive to your pets, they are unlikely to get loose. But if your pet does go missing as a result of being afraid of fireworks, remember these two guidelines — dogs run and cats hide. A frightened dog can easily go for miles before running out of steam and allowing him or herself to be captured by a stranger. Your ID tag should make it easy for you to be contacted as soon as your pet is found, but if you have to do the shelter circuit search, don’t limit your search to just the local shelter. Post lost dog signs all around your neighborhood, and check with every shelter in neighboring municipalities.

Cats, by contrast, tend to hide. Check crawl spaces, garages and sheds. Put out your kitty’s favorite food, and focus your search around the hours of dawn and dusk. If you can, leave a door or window open so that he or she can sneak back into your home overnight.

All of this can seem scary and maybe even a bit over the top, but a little thoughtfulness and common sense will help you and your pet avoid the kind of incident that can take all of the fun out of a fabulous Fourth of July celebration and the 236th birthday party for this amazing country.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society