Thursday, July 3, 2014

Pets plea for silence this 4th of July

Pretty kitty sitting in a chair

My pets noticed the first 4th of July related crashes, booms and flashes of light on June 30th. I think that's a new record, and it has me concerned about what in the world is going to happen tomorrow night. After all, if people have so many fireworks that they can set them off days and days before the actual holiday, what will happen when we are generally urged to light crap on fire to celebrate our independence?

So, I decided to write my annual blog post, urging people to at least be mindful of the animals they live close to. I figure, if enough of us point out how terrifying these noises are to our pets, perhaps people will at least consider tamping it down just a touch.

Fireworks in Oregon 

A number of very loud and very distressing fireworks are illegal in Oregon. Bottle rockets, Roman candles and what my husband calls "M-80s" are all explicitly banned in the Pocket Guide to Fireworks Enforcement. In general, if it flies up into the air or scoots along on the ground for long distances, it's probably illegal.

But, we're just minutes away from the border of another state that doesn't restrict these things, so it's remarkably easy for people to pick up explosives and shoot them off. And law enforcement officials have their hands full on the 4th with inebriated drivers, fires and more, so they're not always available to step in when people get crazy. So people aren't all that compelled to follow the letter of the law.

Plus, a lot of people just seem to enjoy watching bits of cardboard blow up in the air. I can't expand on this point because I don't share it, but I know it's out there.

Fireworks and pets 

What I do know is that fireworks are responsible for a significant amount of pet-related misery. Some industry-quoted research suggests that pet losses increase by 30 percent in the aftermath of the 4th. Mainly, that loss comes as dogs and cats panic about the noise, the smell and the light, and they dash away in the hopes of finding safety. 
Pug pleading for silence
"Why do they do it?"
The problem is so prevalent, in fact, that some community animal shelters are forced to prepare for an influx of pets. Marion County, for example, released a statement about that this week. Officials there think that loose animals are such a problem on the holiday weekend that many owners will only be reunited with their critters when they come to the shelter later on. (Marion County is waiving fees to get the pets back, which I think is great.)

But there are many pet owners, like me, who have hidden concerns. My pets don't run away, and they don't need to be sedated to get through the holiday. But, I do have a blind cat, and she finds the fireworks to be very confusing. I spend much of July trying to soothe her when something loud goes off in the neighborhood, and she becomes increasingly agitated with the chaos that arrives on the 4th. As a result, I have to make a commitment to get home well before dark on the holiday and crank up the radio until 3 am, just so I can make sure she's not so frightened that she harms herself.

I know of dozens of dog owners who must do the same, and I can cite plenty of owners who stock up on Benadryl and Thunder Shirts just to get through July.

All for what? So you can light stuff on fire?


This year, I'm asking all of you pyros out there to take pity on our pets (and us) and keep it down to a dull roar. And remember: If you don't and you're in Oregon, you could be fined for the activity. (Those fines can be surprisingly hefty, too). Grant us independence from this problem, just this once. We'll be eternally grateful.

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