Protecting man’s best friend

Fireworks a concern for the Animal Rescue League

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ The sound fireworks and similar explosive devices make can cause distress in cats, dogs and other animals. It is important to keep pets safe and calm during fireworks season. Pictured is ARL of Marshalltown employee Shannon Waltemeyer, and adoptable dog Tiny, who is a male Brittany.

Fireworks have always been a popular form of entertainment for people celebrating the Fourth of July. However, the sound fireworks and similar explosive devices make can cause distress in cats, dogs and other animals.

“The number of missing animals brought into the ARL has doubled within the last couple of weeks,” said Shelly Deal, director of the Animal Rescue League of Marshalltown.

While purchasing fireworks is now legal in the state of Iowa, many towns — including Marshalltown — have passed city ordinances banning the use of “consumer” fireworks within city limits. At the May 22 Marshalltown city council meeting, a unanimous 7-0 vote was rendered, prohibiting the use of consumer fireworks used by the general public (as opposed to display fireworks used by pyrotechnical professionals).

Despite this ordinance, residents continue to illegally set off personal fireworks displays all over town. The consequences of these acts lead to trauma in animals and people bothered by such noise, particularly veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Deal noted how she and fellow staff have been dealing with a spike in animals, especially dogs, arriving to the shelter after running away from home due to the noise.

“A lot of people are finding dogs running around town. We’ve gotten after-hours calls to pick up animals,” Deal noted. “We had one dog come in who had pulled an entire post out of the ground to escape the yard and run off because of fireworks. Another frightened dog jumped into someone’s car, and the woman then brought the dog to us.”

Deal, who asserted she is not against the use of fireworks, said what makes this year especially hard for pets is the increased use of setting off these explosive devices, due to the ease with which Iowans can now purchase them.

“I’m not against fireworks. I love the Fourth of July, but that’s one day when people can prepare and take care of their pets, but it becomes a problem when [fireworks] are now a month-long ordeal, and that’s not fair to animals … Fireworks are easier to access now when you just have to go two blocks up the street to purchase them, instead of driving to Missouri.”

Lisa Tichy, co-founder of Diamond in the Ruff Rescue, which primarily serves the Marshall/Tama county areas, also noted an increase in animal welfare calls.

“We’re getting two to three messages a day, which is triple what we usually receive,” Tichy said.

Both Deal and Tichy noted that animals, especially dogs, who are bothered by fireworks, look for a way to escape their yard or home.

“Fireworks are not a natural noise for dogs, so they take off. It’s a fight-or-flight reflex,” Tichy said.

“Dogs, and sometimes cats, will dart out of a house trying to get away from the noise, or some hide under beds or get sick,” Deal said.

Ways in which to ease a pet’s anxiety include: staying home with a pet while fireworks are being set off, or leaving a television, radio or fan on in the room in which a pet resides (to help drown out the outside noise) if you won’t be home.

“Some animals might be safer in a kennel, but confinement can also cause anxiety,” Deal said.

“Make sure your pet gets a lot of exercise before festivities,” Tichy said. “Keep yourself calm — they feed off your mood.”

Making sure your pets are wearing properly fitted collars and ID tags is essential in reuniting a lost creature with his or her owner.

“Thankfully, we have people who find dogs running loose and either bring them to us, or keep them overnight [until an owner can be contacted]. We have been able to reunite some of the dogs with their owners, but some stay lost and could then be hit by a car or injured,” Deal said.

For tips in keeping your pets safe this holiday season, visit: