July 4 Is No Party for Most Dogs


While Fourth of July revelers ooh and aah at tonight's fireworks, their dogs will probably do anything to escape the racket.

They'll jump over walls, dig holes, chew through fences, high-tail it down streets.

"The dogs just go nuts," said Kandy Hays, whose pets get more creative in their efforts to flee the explosions each year. "I've never seen a 118-pound wolfhound fit behind a toilet" before.

Animal hospitals and shelters are preparing for the rush of injured and lost dogs brought in every year after the holiday. The loud blasts--whether from firecrackers in the street or giant public displays in the park--throw most mutts into a panic and send them running, sometimes through windows and directly into traffic.

In addition to several dead dogs each year, veterinarians report seeing dogs who have been impaled on fences or hanged by their own chains. The fireworks also push some to brawl with other pets and tear up homes.

Some vets prescribe tranquilizers so dogs will stay quiet and under control. "I recommend just enough to keep them a little bit calm, just like somebody having a couple of beers," said veterinarian Leon Sandin.

The Coalition for Pets and Public Safety advises owners to keep dogs away from fireworks shows. Coalition project manager Pam Wilkinson said pets have very sensitive ears and can hear the blasts from miles away. "They get scared and get rather ingenious," she said. "But if they are inside and they get panicky, they aren't going to get out."

As Nicole Dickerson of West Los Angeles drove home from a fireworks show on the beach last year, she saw dozens of dogs darting down streets. She picked up as many as she could catch and took them to the pound. Some were far from home.

"It was wild," she said. "They were running in all different directions. It looked like mayhem."

Dog owner Hays lives in Lakewood, where backyard fireworks are allowed. Every year, she dreads the Fourth of July. She tries to keep her dogs from getting spooked by locking them inside, with the air-conditioner and television both turned on loud. But the windows still rattle and the booms can be heard.

"It's a war zone here," she said. Hays can't wait until it's all over. "As soon as it calms down, we go back outside and all with the world is good again."

But not for all pet owners. Teary-eyed and frantic owners inevitably show up at shelters in search of their pets on July 5.

Kaye Michelson of the county Department of Animal Care and Control said the numbers of recovered pets multiply after the holiday. The overcrowding forces workers to euthanize more dogs than normal.

She urges owners to put identification tags on their pets and stay with them during barbecues and parades.

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