How to protect your pet from the effects of fireworks noise

Longtime Bixby Knolls resident Debbie Larkin Shaw, like many residents with pets, is fed to the eye teeth with fireworks explosions.

“I 100% swore last year I was going to take my dogs and leave this year,” Shaw said.

“I am totally with you on not being able to celebrate because I have to stay with my dogs,” she told me. “It’s unsafe to leave them when they are on tranquilizers due to all the [multiple expletives] fireworks.”

Fireworks, whether safe and sane or unsafe and senseless, are illegal in Long Beach. So are bicycling, scootering and skateboarding on Second Street sidewalks and other busy Long Beach walkways, and you know how well that’s working. So this year, we’ll skip the usual please-don’t-set-them-off lecture because flouters will flout, and we’ll go right to what you can do for your suffering pet, your suffering neighbors with PTSD, and your suffering self.

“Anyone who witnesses the discharge of dangerous fireworks firsthand can also report it to the police—they can call 911 or the non emergency line [562-435-6711],” city prosecutor Doug Haubert said.

Last year, a group of exasperated residents banded together and made city prosecutor Haubert aware of the problem. Haubert was immediate in responding, gathering information, attending public meetings, working with the Long Beach Police Department, and creating tools for the public. His office helped draft a city ordinance (Long Beach Municipal Code 8.81) that details the prohibition and also makes property owners or the individuals themselves responsible for setting off fireworks. Enforcement would go through the city attorney’s office.

A portal for residents to report the use of dangerous pyrotechnics and upload photos is available on the Go Long Beach app, which is available on Google Play and the App Store. The app identifies the date, time and location of the report. This makes it available to the police department to use when they look for trends, Haubert said. If you can pinpoint where the explosives are, report them to the police. If you can get a video or a photo, all the better. If you hear something go off but you don’t have a visual or an address, chances are that someone will and hopefully will report it. Other resources and information are available on the city prosecutor’s website.

Haubert emphasized that the more dangerous fireworks rather than those labeled safe and sane are the targets of his office and the LBPD. Even though a spark from a “safe and sane” firework can set off a brush fire in the proper conditions, it wasn’t a box of sparklers that took out two Belmont Shore condos and injured four firefighters last week.

“Dangerous fireworks, like Roman candles, skyrockets, and aerial shells are banned throughout California—those are the ones we enforce against,” he said.

The most proactive and important things you can do involve addressing your pet’s mental health and safety. Every year, The Scratching Post offers suggestions for you to do this, and there are always a couple of new ones, particularly when it comes to merchandising—no surprise. If you can add any, please comment or send them to [email protected]

  • Don’t take your dog to fireworks displays or anywhere they might be popping. They will not enjoy them as much as you will. Every year, more than one dog is found on the beach or winds up in the shelter after being startled by a bang. If they’re not as lucky, they are killed or injured on the streets.
  • Ideally, your pets shouldn’t be out by themselves at all, especially if you’re not home. If there’s no choice, be sure the gate is reinforced, windows are securely fastened, and screens don’t provide an escape route for a panicked pet to dive through.
  • Equip your pet with a current ID that includes the animal’s name and your phone number. Confirm that your pet’s microchip information is registered or updated. If your pet isn’t chipped, get them chipped. Friends of Long Beach Animals is providing them free at Bixby Animal Clinic (see To the rescue).
  • Chris Hawkes, the behavior, enrichment, and transfer coordinator at Long Beach Animal Care Services, recommends taking the last doggie walk of the day before sunset, when the bangs and booms go off in earnest. He suggests a collar with metal clips or lock switches as opposed to one with a plastic clip. Martingale collars, which are constructed to prevent the dog from slipping out, are even better. Hawkes also recommends doubling up on leashes, attaching one to a collar and the other to a harness.
  • Some people board their animals during fireworks season, but it’s expensive and they’d probably rather be with you. Create as secure a haven as you can: a room—even a bathroom—away from the street, music and voices on the speaker, blinds lowered, a favorite toy, and you. When you’re not around, throw in an article of clothing that you’ve worn—pajamas would be a nice, redolent choice. Close the windows, which could be dreadful if it’s hot and you don’t have air conditioning, but a fan, preferably a loud one, is a good second choice. Talk to your cat or dog, and share some treats. Hawkes makes simple ones—kibble smeared with peanut butter in a Kong toy or frozen in a plastic container, which you can slice like Bowser brownies and then lick the spreader.
  • If your dog is crate trained, cover the crate with a blanket. Thundershirts are popular swaddlers. They make them for cats as well as dogs, and there are snoods available for ears. If you’re a crafting enthusiast, you can make them yourselves for a lot less money. Videos that demonstrate pet-wrapping techniques with old shirts or Ace bandages are available on the internet. You can buy headphones for dogs now, but even the most indulgent among us may think that’s a stretch.
  • Calming treats, herbal concoctions, Benadryl, CBD oil and meds pepper the internet and social media. “Some of these can be helpful, but ‘natural’ does not equal ‘safe,’” advised Dr. Greg Perrault, veterinarian at Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital. He also warned that Benadryl doesn’t have the same sedating effect on dogs that it does on humans. For any medications, holistic or otherwise, please speak to your vet. They know what’s up.
  • Not everyone can manage to get out of Dodge during fireworks season, but if it’s doable, go for it. “I will take myself and my dogs out to the desert to escape the barrage—I always leave for a week around the Fourth and New Year’s Eve,” one resident said. She added that fireworks are the only reason that she’d leave the city—she’d rather celebrate with friends.

The booms are starting to increase and Hawkes emphasizes planning ahead, but it’s still not too late. If your pet has issues with loud noises, and many do, get in some training time now. He recommends searching the internet for the keywords “fireworks desensitization” and ordering anxiety medication from your vet weeks in advance. Positive reinforcement, he said, can lessen a dog’s anxiety during explosion. He suggested popping plastic air pouches such as the ones used to pad Amazon orders and give the dog treats immediately after bursting them.

Long Beach Animal Care Services’ volunteer team will be scanning lost pets on the days leading up to the Fourth. Speaking of LBACS, want to know a good way to help during the frazzle season? Foster a shelter pet to make room for the frightened and lost! The shelter is located at 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, at the entrance to El Dorado Park. Here are a few dogs and cats who’d love to couch-surf at your place (and maybe stay there?). To meet any of them, visit the shelter during open hours. To speed the foster/adoption process, email [email protected].

Virtually pets

This handsome hunk with the million-dollar smile is 2-year-old Broly (#A661611)! Broly has been waiting for his soulmate to adopt him since August of last year. He’s approximately 60 pounds, is athletic, loves to play, and is very smart and treat motivated. He’s a young dog that hasn’t yet had the good fortune of having a committed owner to teach him manners or life skills. He’ll do best with an adult-only, dog-savvy home willing to provide lots of exercise, patient guidance and the time he needs to decompress from the shelter. Broly appears to be both dog and people friendly, but providing proper introductions are important to any dog in new situations. If you’re looking for an active, outgoing wingman to be your adventure companion, Broly is more than ready to meet you!

Niko (#A605387) is a 4-year old mix of perhaps a bit of Rottweiler, a bit of shepherd, maybe even a little Australian kelpie and a whole lot of personality! The name Niko means “victory of the people”, but so far it seems people have just let this big guy down. He’s been waiting at our shelter since September for a chance at finding his forever family. The shelter is over capacity and Niko is urgent, so we are actively seeking foster, adoption or rescue placement. He is a great size at 60 pounds, has medium energy, and is smart and very treat motivated. He already knows several basic commands—he might have the greatest high-five ever)—and is easy to walk on leash. Niko would do best with an adult-only home with large-breed experience and patient humans—it can take Niko some time to develop a bond with new people. With regular exercise, structure and guidance through new experiences, Niko will thrive and develop into the best boy he can be!

kitten with black mask and back and white chest and legs sits on a pad and looks sideways. Nose is very pink.

curled-up kitten, a tortoiseshell

Ember, kennel 801

adorable orange kitten with blue collar stands in kennel

kitten with black face mask and weird extension over nose and white rump lies on the back of a white cat

You get to name him, kennel 818

Great Furballs of Fun

Beach volleyball tournament to celebrate Adopt a Cat Month: Sunday, June 26, 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Rosie’s Dog Beach, 3938 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, $25 individual, $80 team

You’re not a Southern Californian if you haven’t at least seen a volleyball game at the beach, and you’re not an enthusiast if you haven’t played in one or watched avidly. This Sunday, a genuine team player from Keller Williams Coastal Properties is presenting a volleyball tournament at Rosie’s Dog Beach, and the proceeds from the tournament will help cats and kittens at Long Beach Animal Care Services get socialized and adoptable! Sign up at the link on the graphic. Cats and sand—kinda go together, huh?

District 1 Independence Day Dog Parade: Saturday, July 2, 10 a.m.–noon, Lincoln Park, 101 Pacific Ave., Long Beach, free

Celebrate Independence Day in Downtown Long Beach to honor pets and vets for their service. District 1 will honor five individuals and their dogs for their dedicated service to the community—police officers, military veterans and firefighters. Join this inaugural event by registering on this link. Come dressed for the Fourth, and dress your doggie, too! Water bowls will be provided. All dogs must be up to date on vaccinations, leashed at all times, and comfortable being around people and other dogs. Note: Registration does not guarantee entry to the parade. All registrants will be notified if they have been accepted to the event.

To the rescue!

Council District 8’s Gener8 Kindness: A Pet Supply Drive

Long Beach City Council District 8 is collecting pet-supply items for the furry hopefuls at Long Beach Animal Care Services. The district is accepting dog and cat food, cat litter, collars, leashes, blankets, towels, dog and cat treats, dog and cat toys, hamster and gerbil food and toys, and other pet items—check this page for a more extensive list. Drop off the donations at the District 8 Field Office, 4321 Atlantic Ave., or at Animal Care Services, 7700 E Spring St., at the entrance to El Dorado Park. The Pet Supply Drive will culminate in a Pet Wellness and Adoption event at Scherer Park later this month. More details to come!

Friends of Long Beach Animals’ free microchip clinic: through July 3, Bixby Animal Clinic, 3938 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, 562-426-4066, appointments preferred but not required

The Fourth of July—or rather, the unbridled fireworks season that should start (or continue) any day now—is the worst holiday for animals. Every year at this time, dogs and cats fill shelters in disturbing numbers after they’ve been startled by a crack or a boom and go running off. The best way to put the odds in favor of your pet getting a ride home is to provide them with a microchip. Friends of Long Beach Animals (FOLBA) is once again living up to its name by providing free microchipping for your dog or cat. Please take advantage of this opportunity if your pet is not currently microchipped—it may mean the difference of being reunited with your pet. Pass on this information to everyone you know so FOLBA can microchip as many pets as possible in Long Beach and the surrounding areas.

Adopt, adopt, adopt

Foster for awhile—or furever!

These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list.

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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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