Locals express frustrations over illegal fireworks displays

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ The illegal usage of fireworks within the city limits of Marshalltown has had a negative impact on the communityÕs vulnerable populations, including animals, children and those who suffer from PTSD. Pictured is rescue dog Seven who is being cared for by Shelly Deal and fellow staff at the Animal Rescue League of Marshalltown.

While Iowa is now in the second year of legal fireworks sales, the setting off of these explosives remains prohibited within the city limits of Marshalltown. The city ordinance, and the fines for violators, however, have not deterred everyone.

Critics of these contraband fireworks argue the noise is disruptive to a variety of animals and peoples — pets, livestock, children, the elderly and anyone suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Shelly Deal, who serves as director of the Animal Rescue League of Marshalltown, said while the shelter has not seen an increase in stray animals being brought in, she believes it is only a matter of time. She has received reports of pet owners struggling to comfort their pets.

“It’s no longer just a one day thing you can prepare pets for,” she said. “It goes on for weeks leading up and until the end of July. Thunder jackets can help and anxiety medications, but I don’t think people should have to drug their dogs for a month. An animal should be comfortable in their own home. It’s stressful to them. Fireworks are not part of their everyday routine.”

Locals have expressed frustrations, sharing their thoughts with the T-R via social media.

Dog owners face the daily struggles of keeping their canines calm.

“It freaks my dog out so bad. I wish they would have never been made legal in Iowa,” Kathy Croskey said.

“My husky went into an anxiety seizure from the fireworks that go off all day and night,” Audrey Knott said. “She won’t leave her dog house to eat. We have tried treats, talking to her, everything and nothing works.”

“My neighborhood is lit up with folks shooting off fireworks. My dog barks at them when they start and soon begs to be let in the house to go to the bathroom for shelter. Soon after he comes to my side and jumps at every pop and sizzle — shaking until they stop,” Kathaleen Hale said.

“Our 9-year-old yellow lab Daisy is terrified every time they go off,” Jeff Linton said. “She starts panting and breathing heavy and pacing around the house in distress. It’s horrible. I wish they (the state) would ban those dangerous things again.”

While anxiety medications can help both people and animals, they can be costly — both to the pocketbook and from side effects.

“Why should people need to tranquilize their innocent pets because of other people’s choices? How is that right?” April Long said.

Setting off fireworks outside the city limits — where it is legal — still has an impact.

“When people go out in the country to set off fireworks it can affect livestock and dogs and cats live out there too,” Diamond in the Ruff Rescue cofounder Lisa Tichy said.

She said the best way to ensure animal rescue agencies are able to reunite you with your missing pet is to keep collars on them.

“So many people don’t put collars on their dogs, but it only takes one slip up,” Tichy said. “A scared pet may bolt right through the front door. At least put them on your pets this time of year.”

But pet owners are not the only group of people impacted by the booms. Those who have served in combat may be especially bothered by the sound of fireworks.

“A lot of veterans hate the Fourth of July,” Valerie Busse said. “They suffer with chronic PTSD and fireworks, the noise and the smell, trigger devastating and debilitating outcomes. Try to be cognizant and considerate, please.”

Local teacher and foster parent Anna Wolvers said “kids with trauma histories and foster parents comforting them” has been her firsthand struggle with the fireworks since the start of the season.

“We’re hopeful the problem won’t be as bad as it was last year now that people are aware of the damage it can cause,” Deal said. “People should just enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks display put on at the fairgrounds. People work hard to put that on, and these (illegal fireworks displays) take away from that.”

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at

641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com