Animals hate fireworks, and we should pay attention

By on July 3, 2017 with 19 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

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.

Companion Animals

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  1. Kathryn James says:

    Let’s not forget about our military vets as well. Many suffer from PTSD. The loud noises are stressful reminders of what they endured in service of our country.

  2. Sarah Engler says:

    THANK YOU! I was starting to wonder if anyone in this world besides me understood this obvious fact! What is the thrill of making gigantic noise?! No pretty colors, just horrible sound for HOURS!

    THANK YOU for being a voice for the helpless!

    • Brenda says:

      Yes! My dog has a thunder shirt on and I have given him pet ezzz! He is in the laundry room
      shaking to death so idiots can make loud noise! Senseless! I vote to ban the things.

  3. Kat says:

    OMFG I HAAAAAAAAAAATE fireworks!!!! I hate them so much I don’t even have the words to describe my hatred. They scream ‘low rent, trashy people,’ and they’re terrifying to animals. Not to mention I detest the noise. And as someone who works for a living, I get no sleep at night because the unemployed happily set off fireworks til all hours of the morning.

  4. Kristin alexandre says:

    Our firework display in the New Jersey countryside was huge and long and I couldn’t stop thinking of the foxes, bears, bobcats, and deer not to mention the bird life that were horrified. It must have seemed as though the earth was coming to an end.
    But there is an upside. This is the first time in my life that I ever looked at fireworks through the eyes of our wild friends. I’m old. But usually when I think of something other people are thinking it as well

  5. Jenny says:

    They not only terrify our pets and wildlife but for the pollution they cause as well. I feel it’s such an uncivilized act but after all we aren’t a very civilized nation.
    Look at what we’re celebrating, the horific takeover of a beautiful land to destroy it for its resources and the slaughter and oppression of it’s native people.
    Why are we celebrating this???

  6. Sue says:

    Thank you for referring to wildlife – I never thought any more beyond dogs – what can be done about service dogs that accompany disabled people who want to be at the fireworks? We have a civic group in my town that puts on our 4th festivities and I recommended that from now on no dogs be allowed at the fireworks and I don’t think dogs or any other animal should be walked in our parade.

  7. Tommy says:

    With that same token, then fireworks stands might as well cease to exist. Many people partake in private displays on their property, or in the neighborhood because it is legal in many jurisdictions to do so. Many people, myself included like to buy 300 or 400 dollars worth of fireworks to put on display for everyone on the street, and my family. It’s a sign of celebration, and unity as Americans. Just this past 4th I bought a huge mortar and cannon box full of several different kinds of sky boomers. I got nothing but mad props from everyone.

    Not once did it cross my mind that any animal would be sensitive to the noise. Most people don’t think about that. It’s not something that will be going away anytime soon, and the fact it’s limited to 2 weeks a year, with 2 peak days a year, I don’t think 14 days out of 365 days would really hurt.

    Unless some kind of legislation was passed, I don’t see people stopping fireworks celebrations because some bird is going to fly into a tree. I’m not trying to be callous I’m trying to be realistic with how society is today.

    • Think about it says:

      My dog has developed a fear of a number of things and it ALL started with fireworks. Now he’s afraid of thunderstorms, We live in FL it storms every day in the summer. Unknown things freak him out because he’s waiting for them to attack. And no its not 2 peak days. People light them off all week before and after and randomly just for fun after that for at least a month. I don’t appreciate it and neither do other pet owners. Go to a professional display, your’s really aren’t at all impressive and just serve to annoy pet owners, ptsd sufferers, wildlife, and anyone who has to work early the next morning.

    • Ryan Tiller says:

      Don’t you mean you buy 300 to 400 dollars worth of fireworks so you can show up you’re neighbors, come on lets get real, i’m sure you’re probably one who puts up thousands of christmas lights because you “love christmas” so much. And yes sadly you are right that it’s not going to change because that’s how Americans are, they don’t give a damn about anyone else as long as they are enjoying it.

    • Honeygirl says:

      If only it was JUST 2 weeks but it’s been over a month now where I live…and it’s 2 weeks until the 4th of july.

  8. Vince Phillips says:

    Nicely put but what is the solution? I tried looking for states that adopted some type of legislation addressing the issue but could not find anything.

  9. Brenda says:

    Fireworks are very terrorizing to our pets. Since this is eve of New Year they are sounding all
    around. My poor Rottweiler is hiding in laundry room with a thunder shirt on and I have given him pet ezzzz! What
    Is the fascination people have wanting to listen to ear damaging noise and scaring animals to death! They need to ban them! My dad had PTSD from WWII. It scared him also. How do we ban these things? So cruel to animals and Veterans!!!

  10. Jessie says:

    I know, fireworks are dangerous, loud and effect the environment . So are most dogs. Many people cannot get to sleep or are woken up by their neighbors barking dog. Countless people, many who are children get bit by dogs. And dogs create all kinds of harm to the environment with their waste kills grass and plants. No one is up in arms to ban dogs. People should be able to use fireworks twice a year. It’s the least dog owners could do. Especially for their neighbors who have to put up with interruptions in their sleep at night and have no peace and quiet during the day because of barking.

    • Joanne says:

      There are things we can do about neighbors with barking dogs. It happens because the dogs are not getting enough attention from their owners, usually left alone too much. If it disturbs your peace, you can try talking to the neighbor nicely about it, and if that doesn’t work, you can sue them in small claims court (where you don’t need a lawyer). I had to do that many years ago and it solved the problem, without any harm to the dogs. It actually forced the neighbor to take better care of his dogs, so it was a win-win for both the dogs and me. As for fireworks, they are absolutely unnecessary. We can find other ways to celebrate without harming animals and our environment. Be part of the solution, not the problem!

  11. Jessie Amsler says:

    I was completely unaware of the harmful effects on wildlife until I happened to look up the history of fireworks a few years ago and I wish more people knew the terrible and sad effects they cause. I agree with you that with this knowledge, it’s hard not to see fireworks without seeing it through animals eyes. I’m hoping more people get this information and we can adopt a new tradition for celebrations.

  12. Debra says:

    My city has taken a hands-off policy on fireworks, therefore explosions are being set off in residential areas every single day and night (mostly night) and have since mid May (it is now mid-June). Is there any precedent of the Humane Society suing a city for allowing fireworks on days other than the 4th (and only then by professionals and NOT in residential areas)? It is traumatizing for all domesticated animals, wildlife, babies, anyone with PTSD and sensible folk of all ilk.

    If there’s no precedent, would the HSUS consider such an endeavor and what would that entail.

    Thanks to anyone for information and/or support!

  13. JP Miller says:

    I started a petition to help bring awareness to the harm fireworks have on pets, wildlife, and people with PTSD. Please help promote this cause.

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