The Fourth of July is a day to celebrate our freedom and what unites us as Americans. But the bone-rattling booms and bangs that accompany the holiday (and often the weeks surrounding it) are frightening, not fun, for many who call our country home—including many dogs, cats, wild animals, veterans, senior citizens, and people with sound sensitivities.

Every year, dogs and cats are injured, lost, or killed in traffic after jumping over fences, crashing through windows, breaking their chains, or bolting out doors in desperate attempts to escape the explosions. Birds startled by fireworks have abandoned their nests, sometimes orphaning their fledglings, and slammed into buildings in their panic. For veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the unexpected, gunshot-like blasts can trigger combat flashbacks, hypervigilance, intrusive thoughts, and even suicide. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We can help make Independence Day a holiday that all Americans can enjoy by opting not to set off noisy fireworks and encouraging our neighbors to do the same. An easy and effective way to spread the word is by visiting your neighbors before the holiday and handing out copies of a flier like this one, which was shared by an animal activist in Washington, D.C.:

Just as you would if you were attending a demonstration or leafletting on the sidewalk, be sure to dress neatly when going door to door. (A classic PETA logo T-shirt is always a good look.) Introduce yourself, make eye contact (skip the sunglasses), smile, and be friendly—these will help others be more receptive to your message. You could even get creative and give out red, white, and blue vegan cupcakes or other festive treats along with your leaflets to encourage people to be “sweet” to animals this Independence Day.

Be prepared to answer questions by making sure that you know at least three facts from the leaflet you’re handing out. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised to see how receptive most people are, but if you encounter someone who is set on disagreeing, don’t waste time arguing—just politely say, “I think that if you read this material, you might change your mind.” Then smile, hand the person a leaflet, wish him or her a good day, and move on to the next house.

We can also help make Independence Day less terrifying for animals by calling or writing to our city officials to urge them to replace booming fireworks shows with dazzling silent-fireworks displays or laser light shows that offer all the “oohs” and “ahhs” without the terror that conventional fireworks cause.

As we raise awareness of the negative impact of loud explosions on those around us, more people will choose to enjoy a fireworks-free Fourth of July. But if there are still snaps, crackles, and pops in your neighborhood, be sure to keep your animals calm and safe by keeping them indoors and taking these other precautions.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!