Independence Day can be a real howl for dogs

July 03, 1997


Staff Writer

The booms and pops of firecrackers on July 4 might entertain people, but could put some dogs on the run.

Loud sounds such as firecrackers, gunshots and thunderstorms frighten and disorient dogs, sometimes making them break through windows, chew through doors and run in search of safe havens from the noise, according to dog experts.

As a result, the Washington County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the county's Maugansville Road animal shelter that houses homeless and runaway dogs, says the day after Independence Day is its busiest day of the year.

The shelter picks up about five or six lost dogs and answers countless phone calls reporting missing or found pets throughout the day, said Executive Director Shelly Moore.


"But a majority don't end up at the shelter," she said.

She recommends that pet owners take precautions on the nation's birthday, including staying with the animal, ensuring it has proper identification and immediately notifying the shelter of a runaway dog.

She said shelter employees house a lost animal for five business days before they end the search for the owner and make the animal available for adoption.

Some area pet owners entrust their dogs to professionals when they are not home. Debra Hunt, who owns and operates Pet-Agrees Professional Pet Service in Hagerstown, said she is booked to watch dogs on July 4 from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Agreeing that firecrackers cause dogs extreme stress, Hunt said she will check the time and place of local fireworks displays and then will adjust accordingly when she walks her canine customers.

Loud explosions can induce dogs to jump, head in different directions, bark, feel confusion and trot in circles, she said.

Owners should keep their dogs in a quiet area, such as a bedroom or basement, with air conditioners or fans running to drown out the noise, she said.

Keeping a pet inside the house is meaningless if the dog doesn't feel safe because of the noise, which affects their hearing differently than it does people, said veterinarian George Engstrom, of Cumberland Valley Veterinary Clinic in Hagerstown.

"They want to seek refuge," he said. "They'll run anywhere so they can get away from the noise."

When dogs become overly fearful and hard to manage, Engstrom suggests owners consult their veterinarian for a sedative to calm the pets and prevent them from hurting themselves or causing damage.

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