Don’t let your pet become another Fourth of July runaway

Just because some big fireworks shows are canceled doesn’t mean there won’t be scary, loud bursts in the sky

More pets go missing July 4-6 than any other time of year.

According to PetAmberAlert, a lost pet finder that helps four-legged family members find their way home, animal control officials across the nation report a 30%-60% increase in lost pets each year between those dates.

Many fireworks shows that were canceled because of the coronavirus are returning this year. Even if one isn’t near you, though, that doesn’t mean there won’t be loud and colorful bursts in the skies.

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And July 5 is one of the busiest days of the year for shelters.

"We certainly receive a lot of calls for missing pets around then," Rachel Pomberg of Atlanta Pet Rescue told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Karen Hirsch of LifeLine Animal Project also noted an increase in intake July 5-6 at the Fulton and DeKalb shelters.

Fireworks, Pomberg said, are particularly stressful because of the noise and explosions. Oftentimes, a dog's first instinct is to run, she said.

But that trend isn’t exactly the case at Atlanta Humane Society, said Gloria Dorsey, vice president of community education and advocacy.

In fact, according to research conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the trend is actually a persistent myth.

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Fireworks are actually not anywhere high on the list of reported causes for lost pets, according to the research.

"But it's a myth we welcome because it gives us the opportunity to talk about how pets get lost every day," said Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of research and development at ASPCA.

What researchers think is driving the myth, Weiss said, is that shelters see an uptick in July potentially due to summer thunderstorms.

Survey findings by the ASPCA found that nearly 1 in 5 lost pets go missing after being frightened by loud noises in general, which could include the sound of thunderstorms, fireworks or other noises — but this isn’t specific to the Fourth of July.

However, some shelters like the Atlanta Humane Society do report an uptick of potential increase in injuries around this time of year, specifically when fireworks are used.

Pets that become frightened at the boom of fireworks, Dorsey said, have hurt themselves going through windows to escape to a safe place.

Dogs tied up outside while fireworks are being used in the area could also break free of their tethers and run toward traffic.

"This is where the human-animal bond comes into play," Dorsey said. "It's vitally important that owners understand their pets' propensities."

Credit: Christopher Jackson

Credit: Christopher Jackson

Here are eight expert tips to keep your pet safe from injuries or becoming a runaway this Fourth of July:

1. Keep your pet indoors. Both Dorsey and Pomberg said keeping your pet indoors is crucial to avoiding injuries and runaways. Weiss also said to check the screen doors and windows to make sure they’re closed if your pet is alone.

2. Create comfortable safe places. According to Dorsey, when pets are anxious or afraid, they often flee to a safe place like a kennel, closet or the basement. Make sure the doors for these safe places are open and your pet has direct access.

3. Provide additional comforts. In addition to creating an accessible safe place, Pomberg said keeping favorite toys nearby or using treats or thunder shirts will help keep your pet calm.

4. Remember food and water safety around your pet. The Fourth of July may mean pool days, beach getaways and a drink or two. Read the ASPCA's pet safety tips for a happy, health holiday.

5. Communicate with your veterinarian. If your pet has extreme reactions to loud noises, Dorsey said, communicate with your veterinarian about potential sedatives to take the edge off and promote calmness.

6. Don’t use distraction as a calming mechanism, but do try music. According to Dorsey, distracting your pet by yelling may only create more chaos. Though keeping familiar, comforting toys nearby and using treats is OK, trying to play fetch as a distractor may just make it more nervous.

Dorsey also said that if you know what kind of music already calms your pet, it's a good time to use that for a calming effect.

7. Have all their identification in place. According to the experts, pet owners should have all of their identification in place and make sure their pet’s microchip information is current.

8. Know your local animal control agency. For anybody who might lose a pet or come across a lost dog, Dorsey said to approach cautiously and report to your local animal control agency. Below, you'll find a list of local agencies by county.


Cobb County Animal Control 1060 Al Bishop Drive 770-499-4136

DeKalb/Intown Atlanta

DeKalb County Animal Services 3280 Chamblee Dunwoody Road Chamblee, GA 30341, 404-294-2996 (follow the prompts for the correct department)


Gwinnett County Animal Shelter 884 Winder Highway 770-339-3200

North Fulton/Intown Atlanta

Fulton County Animal Services 860 Marietta Blvd. NW 404-613-0358