Animal shelter to be open to reunite owners with spooked dogs, cats

While many look forward to this year’s Independence Day falling on the last day of the week, dogs, cats and other household pets are far less likely to enjoy the noise of fireworks on the eagerly anticipated Friday holiday.

Officials with the Bonnie L. Hays Animal Shelter are bracing for a possibly larger-than-usual influx of pets who stray from home when spooked by the bangs, explosions and fiery overhead visuals from both professional and amateur fireworks popular on and around the July 4 holiday.

The holiday is typically the No. 1 week of the year for stray pets to arrive at local shelters, noted Deborah Wood, manager of Washington County Animal Services.

“The Fourth of July is on a Friday, so we expect people to be partying from that Thursday night through the following Saturday night,” she said. “The fireworks stands are open, and soon we will see the annual Fourth of July influx of dogs and cats into our shelter. We expect a particularly large number of stray pets this year.”

To accommodate spooked pets and their owners, the shelter will be open on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., solely to reunite lost and found pets with their owners.

“We want to get animals back to their owners just as fast as we possibly can,” said Wood, who praised her staff for going above and beyond each year to make this possible. “I am so proud that our staff comes in on this holiday every year to reunite lost pets with their people.”

Myndi Petersen, operations supervisor at the Hays Shelter, said it’s best to assume your cat or dog is sensitive to the sound of exploding fireworks. “It’s always safe to assume that pets will be sensitive to fireworks, loud noises and those kinds of things,” she said. “Some will bolt out the door and run in fear. It’s always good to err on side of caution regarding the dangers they pose to themselves and others when they are fearful and fleeing.”

Signs your dog or cat is not enjoying the fireworks display include shaking, panting even when they aren’t hot, hiding, excessive pacing and loss of appetite.

“We see animals acting very nervous, a lot of restless, behavior and vocalization,” Petersen said. “Some dogs normally willing and eager to eat, may not be so willing to eat or accept food. It affects both dogs and cats.”

Keep pets safe

Here are some tips from the shelter to keep pets safe, secure and comfortable during the long and loud holiday weekend:

• 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.

• Make sure your pet has identification. Collar tags are best, but they can come off. Digital microchip implants are strongly encouraged.

• Make your home a sanctuary for your pet. Have an interior room, such as a bathroom or basement with no windows, where your pet can stay if she or he is fearful of the noise.

• Keep a radio or TV on for “white noise” to soften the sounds of the fireworks.

• Talk with all family members, including children, about the importance of keeping dogs and cats indoors this time of year. Get them accustomed to opening doors carefully to prevent animals from running away.

• Over-the-counter calming products can be helpful. 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, Wood noted. Both Feliway and DAP are available at veterinary offices and at some pet supply stores.

Rescue Remedy, which is available in health food sections, can also help calm pets.

“These products replicate calming pheromones that naturally help animals relax,” she said. “These are all products that might help your cat or dog and won’t hurt to try,” Wood said.

• Consider a ThunderShirt, a patented product available at pet supply stores that 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.

For best results, Petersen encourages residents to preemptively keep all pets sheltered and away from the snap, crackles and pops common to the July 4 weekend.

“I would say all pets you should keep housed in an interior room where they’re safe and secure,” she said. “Use a TV or radio for white noise and make sure they’re being exposed minimally to the sounds.”

If you lose your pet, check with the shelter by visiting Click on “Lost and Found” to see every stray animal housed in the shelter, or call 503-846-7041.

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