Foster the Fourth—Team Effort for a Safe Holiday for Pets

 Foster the Fourth 5

Image courtesy of ACS.

Halloween decorations are out as early as late August, Christmas comes TO the stores before Halloween has even left us, so it’s no surprise that idiots start popping off fireworks by the end of May. So this article is way late, and I sincerely apologize.

The “fireworks are illegal in Long Beach” bulletins from our police and fire departments come out earlier every year as well, but you and I both know that anyone wanting to set off a firework, “safe and sane” (none of them are, entirely) or otherwise, will do it anyway—check out a few of the post’s articles on the topic. So we’ll talk about you and how to keep the pet you love as safe and as calm as possible. But first, Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) and a local rescue have come up with a great program in which qualifying residents can help keep other people’s pets safe and at the same time give a shelter dog socialization and a break from the kennel schedule.

During last year’s July 4 shelter strife, the Animal Resource Team set up a table in front of the shelter to assist people with their missing pets and give them ideas and assistance for making sure that the animal didn’t escape again, if it was found safe and alive. (See “Fireworks and Pets: How to Safeguard Them from Scofflaws”). ART volunteer Emily Ghosh, who is also the Founding Partner and Chief Executive Pawfficer (Em’s pun, not mine) of Live Love Pet Care and Animal Rescue Services, was familiar with a temporary foster program that the Los Angeles County Shelter implements every Fourth of July. Ghosh worked with Ted Stevens, ACS’s Manager, to develop their own version of the program, to be called Foster the Fourth.

“Pets have extreme abilities to get out,” Fifth District Council Member Stacy Mungo said at the presentation at the June 20 City Council Meeting. “They can escape and run off. Animal control can be overwhelmed by the number of pickups required, and there’s not enough places to hold these animals for the short amount of time necessary for their owners to find them.”

Stevens described how the program would work via a remote broadcast outside City Hall, where he was standing near the shelter’s new mobile adoption vehicle and holding a 2-month-old kitten, who kept kibitzing into the microphone.

“Every shelter in the country will be inundated with live pets at this time—they kind of displace animals that are waiting for homes,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do to prevent losing the space is to place these pets in foster homes for about two weeks. You’d pick the dog up July 2 and bring them back around July 16. We’ll provide food if you need it, and we’ll have an emergency contact person for you in case you need it after hours.”

Live Love will be conducting home checks of potential fosters and helping them with education about fostering and filling out the applications. Anyone wanting to help lost pets by fostering a shelter pet is asked to email [email protected] immediately before, as Stevens put it, the “holiday rush.”

And you might not want to come back with the pet on the 16th….

“Yes! We definitely hope for some foster fails!” Ghosh said.

Take Care of Your Pet So the Shelter Won’t Have To

One of the things that people can do to keep their pets safe on the holidays is to provide them a safe place, Stevens said. He advised the following:

  • First, and most important: don’t leave them outside.
  • If your pet is crate-trained, provide a container with a cover on it.
  • If you want to go the pet-tranquilizer route, talk to your vet to get them some medicine (please don’t dose them yourself with human prescriptions).
  • Make sure they have ID tags on them with current name, phone number, and a way to get hold of the owner. If you have a microchip, be sure it’s updated.
  • All these things, Stevens said, will help them from getting scared, leaving and possibly getting hurt or killed.

Other things gleaned from other sources include playing calm music for them, getting a sitter if you want to go out, try the ThunderShirt (there’s a special one for cats, and they look adorable in them) or ear covers—I’d avoid the plug type or cotton because sticking anything down an animal’s ears is a disaster in the making—and give them a safe, quiet place to stay in.

Eileen Hards Sherlock San Bernardino PD

Or your dog can do what Sherlock, special forensic bone digger at the San Bernardino PD, does to avoid noise. The photo shows the vast amount of fireworks confiscated by the department—over 200 pounds. Photo courtesy of Eileen Hards and the SBPD.

 JFFD Logo.Tag.Dog 2015 Long

I haven’t tried any of the homeopathic or organic remedies on my cats, but a lot of my friends swear by them. Just in time for the Fourth, the newly established Just Food for Pets, located at 2200 Lakewood Boulevard adjacent to Primary Care Animal Hospital, is offering free samples of Calm food for dogs. Hey, it’s free, and it’s a good brand. And it might work.

And please—don’t take the animal with you to “enjoy” the display. They likely won’t. Even if your pet is securely tucked into one of those little papoose pouches that you wear close to your chest, he or she will be trapped, with all the surrounding insanity. Imagine the panic. Every year, there have been several dogs who run away in fear, and there are posts all over social media and fliers on every pole.

If you take every precaution and your pet still gets lost, visit the shelter immediately, and check their live Twitter feed on their Lost and Found Pets page. Post on NextDoor, and Facebook pages like Long Beach/562 Lost and Found Pets and Lakewood and Long Beach Lost and Found Pets. And as pet-finder extraordinaire Larry Gorman said, those fliers can work pretty well!

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

How to Thank a Vet

Before I finish, I believe that it’s important to mention that combat veterans can have PTSD-type reactions from the loud pops from fireworks. It’s ironic that the pyrotechnics used to mark the celebration of the Declaration of Independence and our first veterans from the American Revolution also scare the crap out of the ones today.

“Most of us tend to associate particular sounds, smells or environments to specific memories and experiences from our past,” said Richard Beam, Director of Public and Community Affairs for the Long Beach Veterans Administration. “It might be happy memories like the smell of bacon that remind us of family breakfast traditions from childhood, or it could be the music of the ice cream man that transports us back to summers long ago. That same memory association can also exist for more traumatic experiences in an equally profound way. Fireworks with loud concussive explosions, bright lights and the distinct sound produced as they shoot into the air can all be very clear and stark triggers of traumatic experiences similar to those associated with combat.”

My next-door neighbor, a very young combat veteran, agrees with that. Dan Lubeniewski, aka Birdman, is a veteran U.S. Marine Lance Corporal who’s shared not only his own stories—mainly about running after frightened animals, of course—but also several links to news programs on the topic. If you’re not a military vet yourself but you know one or are just a beneficiary of their efforts, please thank them with more than a moment of silence.

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.”
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