Every year, thousands of pets go missing on 4th of July. The noise of fireworks can cause even the most sedate dogs to hide, become disoriented, or flee in terror. Every July 5, animal shelters across the country are filled to capacity as the now-stray pets are brought in one by one. Others are hit by cars, or kept by well meaning but misguided “rescuers” who assume they were abandoned and do not look for the owner.
Don’t let your pet become a statistic. Prior preparation will help keep your animal family members safe. Here are tips from the Missing Pet Partnership to follow before
the troublesome holiday arrives.
Make sure your pet has identification.
Are your pets microchipped? If not, get it done as soon as possible. If so, make sure the chip numbers are registered. Don’t assume your vet or someone else did it for you; 50 percent of microchips in found pets are not currently registered, making it difficult to find their families.
Dogs should be wearing a collar with and ID tag, plate, or embroidery at all times. Many people take collars off in the house, or don’t use them for indoor pets, but the shelters have countless lost reports for such pets that slipped out accidentally.
Keep your pets in a safe place during holiday festivities.
While your dog may normally love going with you to the beach or lake, the loud whistles and booms and bright lights of fireworks can be terrifying. Pets escaping away from their homes are even more at risk, because they don’t know where they are.
Keep pets in the house if possible. It is not unheard of for dogs that have never wandered before to leap six-foot fences when panicked and run away.
Learn the animal shelter system for your area.
If you pet was missing today, would you know who to call? There are county, city, and private shelters. In smaller towns, police departments and veterinary hospitals may serve as shelters. The jurisdictional system can be confusing, especially to the panicked owner of a missing pet, so do some research today and be prepared if the worst happens.
Have good photos of your pets on hand in case they do become lost. This will help with making online and printed lost reports, and can serve as proof of ownership.
If your dog does come up missing after 4th of July, take these steps right away.
Don’t hope for the best and assume your dog will find his way home. While some dogs do return on their own, many have run so far from familiar territory that they cannot find their way back, while others have been picked up by finders or by animal control.
Check any animal shelter that may serve your area.
The jurisdiction system is confusing, so start with your local law enforcement office and city or county shelter. Go to the shelters in person, check in with staff, and view all the impounded dogs. Follow up by checking online listings of strays.
If your dog is microchipped, call the chip company to make sure the registration is current and to report him missing. Chips are not infalible, so do not assume if he ends up in a shelter that you will be called.
Conduct a physical search and notify neighbors.
Start in the immediate area where your dog was last seen, whether it was at your home, a family member’s or a friend’s home, or a public place. Notify neighbors and ask for their help in searching. Important: A loose dog can quickly become skittish and not behave as he would at home, so do not shout, clap hands, whistle, or chase one when you see him. This may cause him to become more scared and to run out of sight—or to bolt into traffic. Tell any helpers to not attempt capture but to call you immediately with any sightings.
Following these tips will help to keep your dogs safe, and if they should become missing, to bring them back home quickly.
Brigid Wasson is the president of Missing Pet Partnership, a national nonprofit dedicated to lost pet prevention and recovery, and the CEO and principal consultant of The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting, providing infrastructure building, management team support, and lifesaving programs for animal shelters across the country. She lives in Sonoma County with four dogs: an Anatolian shepherd, a Corgi/terrier, a Pomeranian/terrier, and a newly adopted Catahoula. For more information, visit MissingPetpartnership.org and AnimalShelterSuccess.com.
Main article photo by: Fireworks by f99aq8ove, hiding dog by David Kessler, both Creative Commons