Fireworks and Pets: How to Keep Them Safe


Photo by Kate Karp. Enhancement by Dennis Dean.

The Fourth of July celebration is a few days away, but enough people who make it especially annoying start celebrating at the end of May. Therefore, I apologize for the lateness of the article.

I’m no statistician, but if I were, I’d probably find that the ratio of fireworks ignited as a symbol of patriotism to those that are set off only to make a lot of noise is pretty puny. It can be a headache for neighbors, but it’s worse for pets.

Dogs and cats panic when they hear the loud booms and cracks, and if they can, they bolt, often winding up far from home. Not a July 5 goes by when someone on social media posts a lost pet who was taken to a picnic on the beach or to a party, or who simply wasn’t secured at home. If the animals are lucky, and if their human took the responsibility to provide them with a microchip and an ID, they get returned. Just before I went home to post this, I spotted a little beige wire-haired dog with a pink collar running down the PCH near the Pavilions shopping center in Seal Beach. Another citizen (Marie, thank you if you’re reading this) caught up with me and told me that the dog lived on a side street and yes, had been spooked by a firework. We didn’t catch the dog–hope she makes it home safe.

Sometimes, sadly, the pet may be so terrorized that he or she will run into a busy street and get hit and killed. Many of them, dead or alive, wind up at the shelter—the lucky ones are rescued by their families.

“Impounds always go up around July 3 through July 5,” said Ted Stevens, Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) General Manager. “It can be up to as much as double a normal day for this time of year.”

Many shelters and rescues have become proactive and creative about lost pets. Live Love Animal Rescue is working with shelters on a short-term foster program for dogs and cats that are already in the shelters. Fosters would volunteer to care for a shelter pet for a few nights in order to make room for the Independence Day weekend influx (see graphic for contact information).


Graphic by Sam Ghosh.

Los Angeles Animal Services has a similar program in which applicants for temporary foster would fill out a form available on this link. ACS has both a lost-and-found page and a real-time Twitter handle, @LBLostFoundPets, on which people can post missing or found animals.

The Animal Resource Team (ART) was founded last year at this time by a group of volunteers who gathered at the shelter to try to help with the July 4 pet explosion. During last year’s holiday weekend and for a few days after, the volunteers reunited seven stray animals with their owners, calling them and sometimes going to the homes in person. The shelter is located at 7700 East Spring Street in Long Beach at the entrance to Eldorado Park. There’s no parking charge to visitors to the shelter, so if your pet’s lost, look there first.

AMRT table

The ART table volunteers demonstrate skill, art and heart in getting pets safely home. Photo by Kate Karp

It’s not that animal lovers are crabby—although a number of us unarguably are—and don’t want people to enjoy the holidays. Scheduled fireworks are neat to watch, and knowing when they’re going to be set off gives pet owners time to get their animals calmed. But fireworks purchased by consumers—safe, sane or otherwise—are illegal in Long Beach. Of course, so are running stop signs and peeing in public pools. It doesn’t stop people, so I don’t know why I’m bothering to include graphic, but I’m doing it.

Fireworks are illegal

OK–consumer fireworks are illegal in Long Beach. Onward. Graphic courtesy of City of Long Beach

But it’s us pet owners who have to make sure that our cat or dog stays safe. Every year at this time, the Scratching Post, along with any animal-welfare organization, social-media posting or publication, puts out a reminder for the public about fireworks and pets. Here are some tips, courtesy of ACS, to keep your pet from becoming a statistic in any form:

  • Make certain pets are wearing identification, including the name and current telephone number of the owner. Confirm your pet’s microchip registration information is registered or updated.
  • Isolate pets indoors at home; they will be happier and not tempted to try to get away during loud sounds.
  • If your dog is crate-trained, put him or her in a crate covered with a blanket for security’s sake.
  • Create a peaceful environment in your home. Play soothing music, and lower the blinds to block outside sights and sounds. If your pet seems anxious, spend time or her, speaking in a calm voice.
  • Keep pets away from flames, matches, and lighter fluid.
  • Even if your pet is indoors with you, double-check yard gates and doors to make sure that pets cannot escape.
  • The Humane Society of the United States has a page devoted to dealing with loud noises, fireworks specifically.

Several pet-specified calming remedies, both natural and chemical, are available for purchase. Pet reactions to medication are as different as those of humans are, though, so it would be unwise to recommend any. If you want to go the pharma route, ask your veterinarian—don’t play doctor.

The ThunderShirt and other swaddling products have been used with reported success on dogs, and there’s one manufactured for cats as well, if you can get the little buggers into them. According to the product information, the wearer feels as if he or she is being constantly held and cuddled. The shirt is a useful item to have on hand during the silly season of fireworks as well as thunderstorms and Megadeath revival concerts. They’re available online on the link under the graphic. It’s worth a few bucks to try it out.

PR4 thundershirtdogscats

The ThunderShirts in this photo are available at this link. 

If you have any further suggestions, please add them. Happy Fourth to you and your pet—may you get through it with flying colors.

Do not think only of your own joy, but vow to save all beings from suffering.

~ Dalai Lama

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”