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Animal services expects a 'ruff' Fourth of July

Fourth of July is No. 1 week for stray pets to arrive at county shelters


County animal-services workers are gearing up for a busy Fourth of July this year.

Deborah Wood, manager of Washington County Animal Services and the Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter in Hillsboro, said it could be the “worst Fourth of July in years” for local pets.

With July 4 on a Saturday, “we expect people to be partying through a very long weekend,” said Wood. “That means a lot of animals are likely to be frightened by fireworks.”

Fireworks-related problems will soon begin, she added.

“We know that many people don’t wait until the Fourth of July [to set off fireworks],” said Wood. “People will be buying fireworks at local stands, and once they buy them they’re likely to be setting them off.”

The holiday is typically the No. 1 week of the year for stray pets to arrive at local shelters. Wood offered these tips for preparing your home and pets for July 4:

¦ Make sure your pet has identification. Collar tags are best, but they can come off. Every pet should also be microchipped. If your pet is microchipped, be sure the information is current with the microchip company.

¦ Make your home a sanctuary for your pet. Have an interior room (such as a bathroom or basement with no windows) where you pet can stay if he’s fearful of the noise. Keep a radio or TV on for “white noise” to soften the sounds of the fireworks.

¦ Be sure to talk with all family members, including children, about the importance of keeping dogs and cats indoors this time of year. Get family members accustomed to opening doors carefully to prevent animals from bolting.

¦ Try over-the-counter calming products. Comfort Zone makes Feliway for cats and DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) for dogs. These products have been clinically proven to be effective in reducing anxiety in dogs and cats. These products replicate calming pheromones that naturally help animals relax. Both Feliway and DAP are available at veterinary offices and at some pet supply stores. Some people also feel that Rescue Remedy, available in health food sections, helps calm pets. “These are all products that might help your cat or dog and won’t hurt to try,” said Wood.

¦ Consider a ThunderShirt. This patented product, available at pet supply stores, applies gentle pressure to a dog or cat and helps to calm them. “It’s a little bit like babies feeling calmer when they are tightly wrapped in a baby blanket,” Wood said.

¦ If your pet is very sensitive to noise, or has anxieties even on low-stress days, talk to your veterinarian now. Pets that are very fearful of noises might need a prescription of anti-anxiety medication from their veterinarian.

If you lose your pet, check with your local county shelter, as that’s where stray pets are taken. In Washington County, go to washingtoncountypets.com and click on the “Lost and Found” link to see every stray animal currently in the shelter.

Washington County Animal Services and the Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter will be open on July 4 and 5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for lost and found pets only. “We want to get animals back to their owners just as fast as we possibly can,” said Wood.

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