By Janet McAfee

We humans cheerfully celebrate our nation’s Independence Day this week with fun, food, and fireworks. As we barbeque in the backyard with friends, it might be tempting to include our four-legged family members. However, the 4th of July is the worst day of the year for our canine friends. The loud noise from fireworks is extremely painful to dogs’ ears. The bangs, explosions, bright lights, and sirens create fear and confusion for our pups and for most cats.

On July 5th every year, some of our highways look like war zones with dead and injured animals who escaped from homes in their fright. Many more end up as strays in our public shelters. Dogs in their frenzy from fireworks will jump tall fences that ordinarily contain them. Sadly, many shelters euthanize more animals this week to create room for the anticipated holiday influx. Owner turn-ins are the first to be euthanized as they know no one is coming for them.

Almost 8 million dogs and cats go missing every year in this country. Sadly, over 35% of those animals will end up euthanized at a public shelter. Shelter workers are bracing for a large influx over the 3-day holiday weekend.

WALK YOUR DOGS BEFORE THE FIREWORKS BEGIN, AND KEEP ALL PETS SECURELY INSIDE THE HOUSE UNTIL THE NIGHT AND FIREWORKS ARE COMPLETELY OVER. Because the holiday falls on a Saturday this year, there may be more revelers setting off fireworks so continue to exercise care throughout the weekend.

When your pets are safely inside, play soft music, turn on the television, or put in a fan to create white noise that sooths them from the extreme sounds. Keep windows and curtains closed to further reduce noise and keep out the bright firework flashes. Be careful when the front door opens because your dog is already under stress and more likely to dart out. You may want to purchase rescue remedy or calming supplements from a pet specialty shop.

YOUR PET SHOULD WEAR AN ID TAG ON HIS COLLAR AT ALL TIMES WITH YOUR CELL PHONE ENGRAVED. These inexpensive tags can be purchased at PetCo and PetSmart. Your pet should be microchipped and contact information kept current. Make sure you have a current photo of all pets. These are the most important things you can do to ensure the safe return of a missing pet.

If your pup is outside as you prepare for the festivities, keep these curious creatures away from charcoal, fireworks, sparklers, and glow sticks. Don’t let guests give them “people food” treats. Foods such as onions, chocolate, avocado, grapes, raisins, and yeast dough can be toxic. Never leave unattended alcoholic drinks near your pets as they have the potential to poison them.

Similar precautions need to be taken by cat owners. Some cats are oblivious to fireworks, while others become very agitated. Keep all windows and blinds shut. Offer needed reassurance. Allow them to hide under the bed or burrow under a blanket until they feel it’s safe to come out.

Looking for a missing pet? The Coachella Valley Animal Campus shelter, 72-050 Pet Land Place, in Thousand Palms houses stray animals from all Coachella Valley cities other than Palm Springs. You can contact then at (760) 343-3644 and The Palm Springs shelter is located at 4575 Mesquite in Palm Springs, (760) 416-5719 and . Both shelters have wonderful animals seeking homes where they can celebrate every holiday.

A happy and safe Fourth of July to you and your 4-legged family members.