Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

June 28, 2005 > Fireworks and animals - a deadly combination

Fireworks and animals - a deadly combination

by Nancy Lyon

Imagine being caught in the center of a raging battlefield with deafening guns, cannons and fire roaring and exploding around you - and nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, nowhere to escape from your fear. Although illegal, bottle rockets red glare and the cherry bombs bursting in air are a fact of life on July 4th. If you're a frightened animal and perhaps alone in the midst of the loud crashing and booming, it's the same as being in a war zone where the only option is to run for your life. That very action of panic too often costs the lives of our beloved companion animals.

Companion animals are not the only victims of July 4th celebrations. The hills and surrounding areas are tinder dry with the vegetation tall from our exceptionally prolonged rainy season. Fires started from improperly supervised fireworks cannot only endanger human homes, they kill wildlife and destroy their habitat. Even so-called "legal" fireworks need to be carefully monitored to prevent this tragedy.

Because you may not be able prevent exposure to loud bursts of firecrackers and the bright streaks and sparks from fireworks, by taking a few precautions you can greatly reduce the stress and the risk of injury or death to your animal friends.

Never take your companion animal anyplace where there will be fireworks. This includes any Independence Day outings where unexpected explosions might occur. The best way to protect your animal family is to leave them at home with one or more responsible human family members. Even the most stable animal who is left alone on this night and for several before and after the 4th is at risk.

If you are at home with your dog or cat on July 4th and they become frightened, do not re-enforce this behavior by offering sympathy. Instead, divert their attention by practicing an obedience routine or playing a game. Leave a frightened cat alone. Do not try to force a cat from its hiding place. When cats feel safe they will come out of hiding. If you know that they are extremely affected by the loud July 4th celebration noises, talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of a sedative. If serious reaction to loud noises is a continuing problem, the help of a trained animal behaviorist can assist in modifying the terror response.

If you absolutely must leave them alone, observing the following guidelines can help prevent a tragedy.

Before you leave your home make sure that all of your animals are secured safely inside the house with the curtains drawn, or in a tightly secured garage with no windows.

If left in the garage, block screened garage air vents. Panicked dogs have been known to chew through air vents and have been seriously injured, or escaped and have been injured or killed.
A radio will provide soothing music and helps to mask the noise.

Do not tie up your dog outdoors. In an effort to escape from the noise they will often break their chains or tether, jump the fence and run away. If the chains don't break, your dog may strangle trying to jump a fence.

Never allow your animal companions to roam free, especially on July 4th. They can become the targets of abuse by holiday hooligans. Frightened animals may run into traffic in an attempt to avoid the commotion and endanger themselves and motorists.

It is especially important during the days before and after July 4th to make sure that every member of your animal family is wearing an identification tag with your current address and phone number. Talk to your vet about a microchip ID implant as a further protection.

If the worst happens and he or she is lost, be sure to check with your local and adjacent area animal shelters ASAP. Animals who survive are often found miles from their homes, confused, disoriented, and exhausted.

The bottom line is that you are responsible for your companion animal's welfare.

July 4th and the days following are traditionally the busiest for animal shelters. Another compelling reason to take special precautions is that this year Independence Day falls on a Monday and the Tri-City Animal Shelter (TCAS) will be closed that day and will close at 5 p.m. during the rest of the week. For those working out of the immediate area, locating your lost animal friend at the shelter will be difficult both during and after the holiday.

Fremont Animal Services has no special provisions to handle lost and frightened animals over July 4th. Animal service field officers will not be available to assist you. If a frightened animal is a traffic hazard, injured, or if you feel threatened, immediately call your local police department, it's their job to respond.

The TCAS night depository is no longer open even for this "special needs" time. If you can't safely keep a found animal until the shelter opens, the best course of action is to bring the stray and frightened animal to the Fremont police department on Stevenson Blvd.; police staff will see that he is safely confined in the shelter.

Lost animals that are injured but can be safely handled may be brought to Central Veterinary Hospital on Central Avenue in Fremont on a Good Samaritan basis. Seriously injured lost animals that may not be safe to transport are the responsibility of the police department when Fremont Animal Services staff are not available. Due to the cutbacks in shelter staff this will be the case on Monday, July 4th and until the shelter opens at noon on Tuesday.

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