Keep pets safe, secure on Fourth of July

FRANKLIN COUNTY >> The fireworks and loud celebration that comes with Independence Day may be fun for us, but can be a frightening and dangerous time for our four-legged friends.

Around this time of year, many dogs and cats are scared by the loud noises that come with fireworks and some are even injured or run away.

The American Humane Association reports that July 5 is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. Indiana Proactive Animal Welfare Inc. stated in 2005 that animal shelters the day after Fourth of July are “inundated with pets that panicked at the noise of firecrackers and fled into the night, winding up lost, injured or killed.”

Sue McMurtray, Chambersburg knows about this all too well.

Her 3-year-old standard poodle Kizhi slipped her collar two years ago during a July 4th fireworks celebration while out on a walk.

After spending most of the night and early morning looking, her ex-husband received a call from a couple off of Ragged Edge Road who said they had her dog.

“I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again,” McMurtray said.

She said social media also helped her when she posted news of Kizhi’s disappearance on the Norlo Park Facebook page and a friend comment to a co-worker who happened to be a neighbor of the woman who found and held on to Kizhi for her.

“When we talked to the lady, she said that Kizhi had run 2 miles without stopping, ran up to their house where there was a group of their neighbors and was shaking, short of breath and panting.”

McMurtray said that Kizhi is still traumatized by loud noises — she tries to shield the poodle from loud noises by turning on music, closing windows and has bought a Thundershirt for the dog.

Christine Lagana, office manager for the Antietam Humane Society in Waynesboro, said they always have more animals in around the holidays, specifically dogs frightened by the noises.

She said she already anticipates a busy day on July 5, with people calling in to report missing animals and finding strays.

She said some people want to include their pets in July 4 events, but strongly recommends against it.

“It’s more stress than it’s worth,” she said. “Leave your animals at home.”

Dogs and cats are not used to the loud noises, she said.

“It startles them,” she said. ‘They break leashes, they break out of their yards. We’ve seen dogs injure themselves trying to get away.”

She said that unfortunately, they’ve also seen accidents where dogs have gotten hold of lit bottle rockets and been injured.

In terms of keeping animals from getting lost, she also recommended having dogs and cats microchipped.

“All of our animals are microchipped now,” she said. “So if the animal is found, the owner can be contacted.”

She said veterinarian’s offices can do the procedure and to check around the area for clinics.

Also their office has found some success in using social media to spread the word about lost pets.

Jennifer Vanderau, communications manager for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, said it’s hard to say if the animals coming in are scared dogs from the holiday, but preparing your pet for the loud noises should definitely be a priority.

“I would look into soothing them any way you can,” I said. “There are a lot of natural things out there to kind of take the edge off of your animals and calm them down.”

In particular, Vanderau mentioned not only keeping pets indoors, but turning on music, keeping windows shut and trying a product called Rescue Remedy, a natural solution that calms them during stressful situations.

While it may be difficult, try not to comfort your dog while in the middle of a panic because the sympathy encourages this behavior.

“Humans have an instinct to nurture,” she said. “It’s exactly the opposite for animals. If you give them attention, it reinforces the behavior.”

Vanderau said that anticipating and preparing for the night is the best solution. Put pets in an area they feel safe and make sure they aren’t around items on which they could hurt themselves.

In the past, using social media has also helped them find animals who have gone missing or has served as a way to help reunite stray animals with their owners.

“One way or another (it has) helped us,” she said. “I’ve been stunned at it.”

Lauren Cappuccio can be contacted at 262-4754.