Independence Day is the worst holiday of the year for Lily, my eight-year-old beagle mix. She reacts badly to loud, concussive noises at any time of the year, but when the Fourth of July comes around, she thinks it’s the apocalypse. Every bang and pop seems to run the length of her three-foot-long body, from nose to tail. She squares her ears, making the sound all the more acute, looks in the direction of the noise in a seemingly uncontrollable, self-destructive impulse, and then shivers and shakes. This behavior continues long after the smoke has cleared and the fireworks display is over. I hate watching her endure the stress.
My wife and I put a thundershirt over her stout frame, in hopes of reducing her anxiety. We turn up the music and television to drown out the bad noises with the innocuous ones. We put on Animal Planet or any show she likes. And to be sure, we keep her at home and in the room that’s best insulated from outside noises. We stay with her, because we don’t want her to have to deal with this clamor without the comforting presence of her family.
Like everybody else, I’ve always loved watching fireworks. But now I can’t help but see the display through the eyes of Lily and other animals.
If Lily were the only animal affected this way, I wouldn’t be nearly as concerned, and I’d be content with our efforts to comfort her. But many pets and wildlife have similar reactions. Shelters report all sorts of problems around the Fourth, including an influx of pets who were spooked by the fireworks, become escape artists, and dash from their homes.
Wildlife rehabilitation centers report a wide range of problems when people start setting off fireworks. “We’ve had mallards stuck in a fence trying to run away from fireworks,” Suzanne West, director of the Sarvey Wildlife Care Center in Snohomish County north of Seattle, told KING News. “We got several Steller’s jays that had been displaced from their nest and abandoned by their parents. Other birds will hit things and fly into trees. They become very disoriented. The amount of explosions and chaos and the smoke and everything, they’re not sure what’s going on. It’s a very scary situation especially for the babies.”
“They actually shake,” added Sarvey manager Jesse Paolello. “There’s explosions going on all over the place. They won’t eat. They won’t drink. They’re hiding in the corners of their cages.”.
On this Fourth of July, it makes sense not to bring your pet along on holiday travels to barbecues and other celebrations. For your animal, the alternative is an evening on the bed at home, with the TV on, and that’s a far superior option for most animals. Here are some tips on how to give your pet a safe and happy Fourth.
Mid-year is also a great time to double check your pet’s ID tags and microchip information and update or replace them as needed, and – as hurricane season rolls in — to come up with a disaster preparedness plan for your family and pets.
Indeed, let’s celebrate the Fourth of July with family and friends and with others in the community. But let’s put aside the private displays that invade our neighborhoods, educate kids about the hazards they create for animals, and take advantage of the organized public displays instead. The random explosions and pyrotechnics and the fleeting pleasures we take from them are just not worth all the stress and fear they induce in our pets and wildlife.