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Animal Tales: How to prevent pet panic on July 4

Spectators watch the fireworks in Bellingham from the top of a parking garage in downtown.
Spectators watch the fireworks in Bellingham from the top of a parking garage in downtown. The Bellingham Herald

Question: My dog becomes terrified during fireworks. How can I help keep her calm?

Answer: The July 4th holiday is anything but a celebration for many animals. Animal shelters across the country, including the Whatcom Humane Society, are accustomed to receiving “July 4th animals,” many of which became scared and ran off during noisy fireworks celebrations.

Preventing your companion animals from becoming lost and keeping them calm on Independence Day is possible by simply planning ahead and taking some basic precautions. With a little pre-holiday planning you can enjoy the holiday and have peace of mind that your animal is safe at home.

To protect your companion animal during the 4th of July holiday, here are a few recommendations:

▪  Do not take your pet to large or small fireworks displays.

▪  Keep you pet indoors at home in a quiet area of the house. Leave a television or radio on while you are away to keep your pet company and mask the sound of fireworks outside. Leave your pet with his/her favorite toy, a chew bone or other item to keep them occupied.

▪  If you know that your animal becomes seriously distressed by loud noises, consult with your veterinarian BEFORE July 4th for ways to alleviate their fear and anxiety. Many local pet supply stores sell products designed to help ease anxiety in pets. Products include calming collars, herbal drops, holistic pet treats and pet shirts/wraps designed to relieve anxiety.

Check with your pet supply store to find out more about these products and see if they can help your companion animal.

▪  Do not leave your pet outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or in a kennel. Many dogs will dig or jump out of fenced yards or kennels in their attempt to escape the loud noises. Check and reinforce fencing for livestock and other outdoor animals. Provide them with a secure place where they can feel safe and get away from the noise.

▪  Never use fireworks around pets. Exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of animals. Unused fireworks also can pose a danger as many contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.

▪  Many cats become victims of cruelty at the hands of people during the holiday. Make sure your cats are kept safe inside during this stressful and sometimes dangerous time.

▪  Make sure your companion animals are wearing collars and identification tags at all times. This is your animal’s best chance at being reunited with you if lost. If your animal will not wear a collar, consider having them microchipped, a permanent form of identification. Whatcom Humane Society offers low-cost microchipping services.

▪  If you plan on going away for the holiday weekend, make sure your pet sitter has emergency numbers where you can be reached, the number of your veterinarian, information on the animal emergency clinic as well as directions to WHS and other area animal shelters in case of a lost or injured animal.

Animal Tales is a regular column written by Laura Clark, executive director of the Whatcom Humane Society. The society provides care and services to homeless, unwanted, orphaned and abused domestic and native wild animals in need. Have a question to ask? Email questions for this column to For information on the society, go to