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From ThunderShirts to cannabis products, owners look to soothe their pets during the roar of the Fourth

Clare Carroll
Clare Carroll of Newport Beach and her three dogs, from left, Opal, Oscar and Clover, are leaving town for the Fourth of July to protect the dogs from being frightened by fireworks.
(Courtesy of Brian Carroll)

Newport Beach resident Brian Carroll and his family are headed to Palm Springs for the Fourth of July this year. Not for themselves, but for their three dogs.

“We’re leaving because the fireworks traumatize our dogs, and drugging [them] doesn’t work that well,” Carroll said. “They lose their minds, they freak out, they bark, they shake or they become so scared they can’t move.”

Carroll says sales of private fireworks in other cities create the problem. Sales and use of personal fireworks are illegal in Newport Beach.

One of the loudest places to be on the Fourth of July in Newport is the Bayside Village residential community adjacent to the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort, where a professional fireworks display is an annual tradition.

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The close proximity to the thunderous bursts creates a problem for pet owners like resident Sharon Kaiser, who has lived there nearly 13 years. That’s also the age of her redbone coonhound, Racer.

Sharon Kaiser with Racer, her Redbone Coonhound, wearing his “Thundershirt” to help reduce anxiety d
Sharon Kaiser of Newport Beach stands with Racer, her redbone coonhound, as he wears his ThunderShirt, a type of vest intended to help reduce his anxiety during Fourth of July fireworks at the nearby Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort.
(Susan Hoffman)

Since Racer doesn’t like car rides, it’s easier for Kaiser to stay home on the Fourth and find ways to comfort him.

“I put him in a ThunderShirt [a type of vest that applies gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety, fear and overexcitement] and give him two Benadryl, shut all the windows, turn the TV up loud and take him to the back bedroom until it’s over,” Kaiser said. “Because he’s so spooked by the loud booms and the windows shaking, I … try not to let him hear the first booms and any after.”

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But random private pyrotechnics start about two weeks before the Fourth and can continue for close to two weeks after. Every year, dog owners search for ways to keep their pets calm while dealing with them hyperventilating, shaking, crying and running away.

Kriser’s Pet Store employee, Chelsie Turner with a selection of anxiety reducing products including
Chelsie Turner, an employee of Kriser's Natural Pet in Newport Beach, holds pet calming products, including CBD, or cannabidiol, items.
(Susan Hoffman)

Kriser’s Natural Pet in Newport Beach has a section designed to help pet owners remedy anxiety in their animals.

“We see a huge increase in pet calming products around the Fourth,” said employee Chelsie Turner. “The CBD pet products such as oil, treats and topical are recommended by veterinarians for circumstantial behavior problems like fireworks, car rides and grooming anxiety.”

CBD, or cannabidiol, is an active ingredient in cannabis derived from the hemp plant.

With sales of “safe and sane” fireworks — generally those that don’t leave the ground or explode in the air.— legal in Costa Mesa from June 30 to July 4, the city recently issued a public service announcement calling on residents to protect their pets from the anxiety that loud fireworks can cause. Private fireworks can be used from 4 to 10 p.m. July 2-4.

The video, titled “Protect Your Pets This Fourth Of July,” features Lisa Price from Priceless Pet Rescue, a nonprofit that operates Costa Mesa’s animal adoption center.

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The video provides precautions for pet owners such as creating a safe, secure and comfortable environment in the home and keeping identification updated in case a pet goes missing as a result of the booms and flashing lights.

Identification was essential when Costa Mesa resident Pat Van Sickler found herself in a panic when the dog she was caring for last week took off.

Van Sickler posted on the social networking site Nextdoor that the Siberian husky was usually calm and that she wasn’t aware of the dog’s fear of fireworks.

“The first time the fireworks that sounded like cherry bombs or M-80s went off, [the dog] ran to me in a panic and jumped on my bed,” Van Sickler said. “The second time, about an hour later, we were outside in my enclosed patio and [she] was so terrified that she bolted over the 7-foot wall and took off. The last thing I saw was her back legs going over the fence.”

The dog was gone by the time Van Sickler reached the street. She got in her car and drove around before returning home to retrieve her phone. She then saw a text from the dog’s owner that somebody had found her a half-block away.

“I’m glad it worked out well, it could have been much worse,” Van Sickler said. “My greatest fear was that something would happen to her.

“Is it really necessary to cause this kind of trauma to both pets and humans for the sake of hearing a loud bang? I hope the people who seem to enjoy these loud bangs are reading this and decide to find a new way to get a thrill — one that is more humane.”

Susan Hoffman is a contributor to Times Community News.

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