4th of July Fireworks: Protect your pets and plan ahead

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Fourth of July is around the corner! 

Fireworks, cookouts and other celebrations may be on the top of your list, but one local shelter is asking that you pay extra attention to your pets during the holiday. 

"It happens every single year. The busiest time in everybody's shelter is the 5th of July, and it's because of the fireworks. People are not keeping an eye on their pet. There are lots of things you can do to stop it from happening, but if you're leaving your dogs and cats outside, those sounds are very traumatic for them and they will run," said Sherry Mansfield, the director of Safe Animal Shelter. 

Mansfield said this is a problem because currently her shelter and the other main shelter in Clay County are at capacity -- meaning they can't take in any more strays until room opens up. 

"Every kennel is full, every room is full, every cage is full, and we just can not put any more in. To be at capacity means we do not have another space. I have kittens in my office right now because we have nowhere else to put them," Mansfield said.

The shelter has this message for pet owners when it comes to keeping pets safe through the holiday. 

"Get them inside and take care of them. Play some music. Put the television on. Do things to distract them from hearing the sounds. Don't leave them outside off leash. Don't leave them outside alone. Sometimes it's overwhelming and they will get very very stressed out," Mansfield said. "You will recognize signs like they're panting, they're pacing, they're whining. Those are some of the signs that they are stressed out and you need to make sure they are OK."

Mansfield also recommends not bringing your pets to your Fourth of July celebrations, covering their crate with a blanket and taking a current picture of them. 

The best thing to do is to get your pet microchipped. According to Mansfield, this increases your chance of finding your pet if they ever get lost. 

Mansfield says up to 20% of dogs that enter shelters are found by their families. 

"If you are missing your dog, the first thing you need to do is put posters out, pictures out, talk to your neighbors. Start scouring the area. Then start checking the shelters," said Mansfield. 

Pay extra attention to your pets this Fourth of July, their lives may depend on it. 

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