I’ll never forget the German shepherd I rescued while serving as a humane officer in the week proceeding the U.S. Independence Day holiday. My dispatcher contacted me to report that they had received calls regarding a strangling dog. Neighbors reported that the dog was aggressive and that the guardians were not home. I arrived minutes later to see the end of a chain coming out of the broken window of the door of a garage. I could see the dog desperately swinging his head as he dangled inside the door. There was blood streaked on and below the jagged glass and chain, so I knew the big guy was in trouble.
“Some kids were throwing fireworks at him and he freaked out and jumped through that window!” a neighbor woman told me. “Watch him—he hates everybody but his own family,” the woman continued. My bolt cutters quickly released the dog, and he stood, dazed, growling at me in the dark garage. Moving quickly, I reached through the window, unlocked the door, and slowly opened it. I could now see that one of his front legs was bloody, but not gushing. I gently used my control stick to move him to my air-conditioned car and was relieved that he put up no struggle as I slipped my arm around his chest to lift him into a cage.
Neighbors indicated that the kids who threw fireworks at the dog must be from another neighborhood, but they agreed to call the police if they sighted the little monsters. Our vet stitched the dog up, and when his guardians came to claim him, they agreed never to leave him outside unattended again. That is only one of my many fireworks-related rescues that leave me tense and sad around July 4.
It is vital that individuals and communities consider the danger to animals from both individual fireworks use and the large community displays. PETA’s caseworkers (staff members volunteer to respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week) and animal shelters across the country will see a dramatic jump in stray dog and cat intake in the coming weeks.
Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors in advance of the holiday. I start hearing fireworks in the neighborhood weeks before the Fourth of July. Make them aware that the terror of fireworks will cause animals who’ve never left a yard to jump or go under a fence and flee in terror. Our cat and dog friends should be wearing tags, and it is a good idea to keep some music or a television playing inside the house to cover the noise of exploding fireworks and to draw the blinds and turn on lights to minimize the flash.
There’s not much we can do for our wildlife neighbors (can you imagine being a bird in a nest during this time?) but talk to humans we know and consider replacing fireworks displays with laser light shows or other entertainment.
Have you seen animals in distress because of fireworks, or do you have any tips on how to keep animal companions calm? Has anybody out there succeeded with canceling a fireworks display and replacing it with something less dangerous?
Make your time with your friends and family—including your animal companions—even more meaningful.