RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As the Independence Day holiday weekend approaches, Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) is urging pet owners to take precautions to protect their four-legged friends.
Over the next few days, many residents and visitors in the greater Richmond area will enjoy fireworks displays. But the lights in the sky can have an entirely different impact on cats and especially dogs.
“We have this conversation year after year,” RACC Director Christie Chipps-Peters said. “Please, leave your pets at home.”
Chipps-Peters said that the animal shelter typically receives an increase of stray dog calls and an increase of citizens bringing in stray dogs on July 4 and the day after.
“Sometimes, when people are out at night, their dogs get out, and the next day, they come to the shelter, and most of them are reclaimed,” she said. “Let them stay home and stay safe. They don’t need to come here. We don’t need them taking up kennel space for other animals that are abused and neglected.”
Chipps-Peters said that loud noises, such as fireworks displays and thunderstorms, can trigger anxiety in dogs and, in some instances, cause them to run away. That’s why she said it is best to keep them at home and avoid bringing them to a crowded fireworks display.
But that also requires pet owners to make sure dogs and cats are comfortable at home and can’t run through an open window or screen door if and when they hear loud noises coming from the displays.
“That does happen and then they’re on the street,” Chipps-Peters said. “Our priority calls go to people that are being harmed by animals or animals that are in danger in some capacity. So stray dogs fall to the bottom of our response times, and so we want to make sure that your dog doesn’t get hit by a car in the interim.”
She said that it’s best to keep dogs in a contained environment while pet owners are out enjoying firework displays. It can help to leave treats and have music or the television on to help drown out the noise.
Although Chipps-Peters said that most cats are not affected at the same level as dogs, some can still be sensitive to the commotion caused by fireworks. In that case, she said that cats should be treated similarly to dogs, by putting them in a contained environment.
“We recommend closing them in a bathroom with their litter box in there, play some music, they’ll be fine,” Chipps-Peters said.
For those planning to light smaller-scale fireworks at home, Chipps-Peters said that it’s also important to make sure the area is clean so that pets do not accidentally ingest any of the remnants.
“Make sure you go through your yard pretty well and get everything picked up, so your pet can’t come out the next morning and swallow down a piece of firework,” she said.
However, if a cat or dog does manage to ingest a foreign substance, such as fireworks, Chipps-Peters said that they need to be taken to the emergency room immediately.
“If you catch it quick enough, sometimes they can induce vomiting and get that out of their system before it makes its way down into the stomach,” she said. “Once it’s in and past the stomach, into the intestines, surgery is the only way out, which is incredibly expensive.”
As for which animals might be triggered to run when they hear fireworks, Chipps-Peters said that it varies.
“Some dogs have it and some dogs don’t. There really isn’t any rhyme or reason,” she said. “Even for dogs that we have seen that have survived horrible trauma, some of them never show any effect of that.”
The best course of action, Chipps-Peters said, is to plan for fireworks to be set off and take precautions early.
“You know that it’s going to happen,” she said. “Set them up for success and hopefully, we’ll have a happy and safe holiday weekend.”