Tips to keep your pets calm and safe

Independence Day is not a time of celebration for pets. The fireworks that humans find so thrilling can drive pets, especially dogs, into a state of utter panic.

The explosions (even miles away), the high-pitched swoosh of rockets, the flashes of light - these can all be overwhelming sensory assaults.

If a pet is terrified of fireworks, these are the signs: He cowers, trembles in fear or hides and appears disoriented. Some dogs become so frightened they take drastic action. They can crash through a screen door, jump out of a window or leap a fence.

Every year, local animal shelters have their hands full dealing with lost dogs that bolted on July 4, cats that have gone missing and anxious owners looking for them. Sadly, some lost pets are never recovered.

There are ways to make July 4 safer and less stressful for pets. Keep pets inside as much as possible on July 4 (and for a few days before and after if a pet is extremely phobic about fireworks). If you find a stray animal, keep it with you until the local animal shelter is open and ready to receive it.

The Oregon Humane Society urges pet owners to follow the suggestions below to ensure their pets will not run off.

1. Make sure all pets, even indoor-only cats, are wearing a collar with an identification tag that includes your name and telephone number. A microchip is also a good idea. Terrified animals will become confused and disoriented. They may end up miles from home or deep under a neighbor's porch. This simple precaution will save a lot of anguish, time and energy.

2. Fireworks are on sale now - that means kids may begin shooting them off early. Walk dogs in the early evening, well before nightfall, to prevent undue stress from noisy fireworks.

3. During neighborhood firework displays, keep all pets safely inside. Dogs, and cats, who are agitated should be put into a bathroom or other room with no windows with the door secure. Remember screen doors will not keep in a charging dog. Do not take a dog to watch a large commercial firework display. This only increases the chances of it becoming lost in an unfamiliar area.

4. In extreme cases, check with your veterinarian about tranquilizers.

If your pet becomes lost during the holiday (or at any time):

1. Immediately check with your local animal control agency first.

2. Put up fliers with a photo and detailed description of the missing pet.

3. The Craigslist website,, offers free lost and found pet postings.

4. Check around the neighborhood carefully. Lost cats have been found days later hiding under a bush in front of their owners' homes. For dogs, expand the search area further than expected as a precaution.

The website pets/overview.asp contains detailed information on what do to if you lost or found a pet, including links to county control agencies and tips for finding your missing pet.

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