JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While many people relaxed Tuesday after Fourth of July celebrations, animal shelters across the country experienced their busiest day of the year, according to the American Humane Association.
The loud popping noises and bright lights of fireworks can be frightening to pets.
“There's sharp, sudden sounds. They're not sure what's going on and a lot of animals panic and wind up getting lost," said Jim Crosby, division management consultant for Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services.
Dozens of dogs and cats are reported missing on July 5 every year in Northeast Florida. Many of them wind up in shelters like ACPS.
But many Jacksonville area shelters are already at capacity and can't take in any more animals.
A good Samaritan pulled over and picked up a cat that he saw on the side of the road and found that the cat had a broken leg.
"I was driving, and I saw her on the side of the road. She was in distress,” the man said. "I have a soft heart, and I wouldn't want that to happen to my cat, dog or child."
Hundreds of dogs and cats fill up the ACPS shelter on top of the nearly 700 in foster homes, so what should pet owners do if they lose a pet?
"First, check their neighborhood. Leave some food or a blanket outside so the animal can find their way back home,” Crosby said. “Put up fliers, but let us know quickly."
If a microchipped pet gets separated from its owner, the person who finds the pet can take it to a shelter or a veterinary office that can use a scanner to find out where the pet belongs.
In some cases, Animal Control employees can quickly identify and return the cat or dog.
"It also reduces the stress on the animal,” Crosby said. “They don't have to come into a shelter situation. The people don't have to find time to come down and reclaim their animal."
But pet owners can avoid the situation altogether by keeping their pets calm and safe during celebrations like the Fourth of July. Experts recommend that owners:
- Leave their pets at home so they don't get spooked by fireworks and run away.
- Put pets in a quiet room or crate.
- Use a television or radio to drown out the noise.
- Don't leave a pet tied up outside. Animals scared by fireworks have been known to strangle themselves while trying to break free.
Every pet is different, but pet owners need to take preventive measures to make sure their furry friends stay home where they belong and out of shelters, experts said.