Fireworks: Impacts on Pets and Wildlife
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Questioning our Traditions
If you’re like me and millions of other Americans, you are settling in for the evening and preparing for the work week ahead. For my family, it’s like any other Sunday night, my husband is watching tv, the four dogs are littered around our small living room, occupying their favorite spaces and I’m holding onto every sweet little morsel of weekend I have left. I tend to be someone who is constantly on the move, so these evenings are a welcomed excuse to slow down and enjoy the peace. Unfortunately, for the next week and periods afterwards, my evenings won’t be so calm or peaceful. It’s July 1st and another American ritual is just a few days away: The 4th of July, the celebration of the birth of America aka Independence Day.
As a child, I loved this holiday, because America and I have something in common, it’s OUR birthday and for me that meant not only cake, but fireworks too. I loved deciding where we would go to watch them, arguing with my brother about who had the best displays, listening to the loud explosions with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA” playing in the background and watching friends and family blow stuff up.
And while, as an adult, my love for my country has remained strong, my love for fireworks has changed. As I’m writing this, the whole typical Sunday night that I had described above has done a 180. My neighbors have started their personal fireworks display. There is no guaranteed start or end time and there’s no rhyme or reason to the frequency of the explosions. My 4 dogs have gone from their peaceful Sunday lull to panting, shaking, barking, and hiding. My timid, gun-shy, rescued foxhound won’t leave the doorway to go outside and, sadly, it will take us weeks to get her comfortable going out there alone again. Every sound is now suspect. The ice maker on the fridge, the tv, the microwave, and all of the everyday sounds that our pets have become used to have now become terrifying.
The Truth About Fireworks
At this point, I can’t help but wonder, if my domesticated dogs are feeling this way, how are the local wildlife dealing with it? My guess by the deafening silence on this warm summer night, not well. Research shows that fireworks have a profound effect on wildlife. Birds and small mammals will abandon their nests in fear, they can become disorientated and never return to their homes. As a result, their babies could face starvation or fall victim to predators. Wildlife shelters notice an uptick in calls as deer and other animals flee into roadways to escape the perceived danger.
The debris left behind from the fireworks can entangle wildlife and poison them if ingested. Chemicals in the fireworks add toxins to the air and water that humans and animals both inhale and drink. Fireworks have also been the cause of forest fires. The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon burned over 48,000 acres and was unable to be contained for almost 3 months. The blaze was started by a firecracker.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way! The obvious best course of action is refraining from purchasing or using personal fireworks. However, if your holiday is just not complete without the sweet sound of explosions, join your friends and neighbors in a community sanctioned event. As always, some things are just beyond our control. So, if you find yourself living next to Joe-Bob Firecracker who’s been itching to blow up his mother’s prized watermelon, here’s what you can do to help our furry friends get through the war on watermelons:
Remove or cover bird baths and feeders well before sundown, this will not only protect their food and water sources, it will also discourage birds from coming into the area. When the “rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air” cease, check the area for debris and clean surfaces or feeders that may have collected dust or other toxins during the festivities. This will help reduce the risk of fire or accidental ingestion by wildlife.
You can help your pets by keeping calm. They know when you are upset and that can make them upset. Closing the blinds and windows if possible can be helpful. Both cats and dogs can benefit from safe hiding spaces in your home to retreat to. Sound therapy, and pheromone wall plugins specially designed for each species can be effective when used properly. If all else fails, consult your veterinarian to see if medication is a proper course of action for your pet.
It certainly is possible to enjoy one of the best holidays of the year, while still respecting the needs of our furry neighbors. I hope this information has helped you, and that you have a fantastic, safe, and mindful Fourth of July.