Animal Conservation

Stressed-out shelters brace for surge of fireworks-frightened pets

Animal welfare advocates fear already busy shelters could be overwhelmed by the wave of runaway pets.

WALDORF, Md. — Animal welfare advocates are predicting the worst week of the year for runaway pets landing at area animal shelters.

Fear of fireworks is the cause of the surge, say animal welfare workers. But this year, the warning is more urgent, as animal shelters across the country report they are already overwhelmed.

“More animals are housed in shelters on July 5 than any other day of the year,” said Cindy Sharply, executive director of Last Chance Animal Rescue in Maryland.

Sharply says 2022 presents additional challenges and risks.

According to the American Society for the Protection of Animals National Database, there is a continuing increase in pets being turned over to animal shelters nationwide.

More than 43,000 pets were abandoned in May compared to less than 34,000 in February, according to the database.

It’s a bad time for pets to run away due to fireworks anxiety, Sharpley warns.

“Keep your pets indoors, keep them on a leash. Don’t let them get away. They will be afraid and they will run away. It happens every year. Dogs jumping out windows, dogs running away, it’s awful,” Sharpley said.

“If you could just keep your pets indoors on the 4th of July. Keep them safe so the shelter doesn’t have to deal with another 20 lost pets,” she pleaded.

Maryland pet owner Erin Hullinger says her dog Pilot is terrified of fireworks.

She recalled Pilot’s reaction when he was first adopted.

“That first 4th of July was so, so sad and we ended up spending the whole night hugging him on the couch while he cried,” Hullinger said.

About 30% of dogs are anxious when exposed to fireworks according to a recent European study. Like many pet owners, Hulligner turned to comfortable body wraps to calm Pilot down.

“We actually found a bunch of Ace bandages and wrapped him up with a little bow on his back. That helps a lot,” she said.

Brands like Thundershirt claim effectiveness in at least 80% of anxious dogs, according to a user survey.

A study conducted by animal behavior expert Temple Grandin documented positive effects.

Recommendations from the American Kennel Club include walking your dog before the fireworks and making sure they’re carrying ID in case they get loose.

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