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Keep pets safe during fireworks

Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic Chief Trumbull County Dog Warden Corey Behnke poses with adoptable lab mix puppy West at the Trumbull County Dog Pound in Howland.

HOWLAND — The Fourth of July holiday delivers bright lights, thundering noise and earth-shaking explosions, which are all a classic part of the festivities.

For pets, though, it can be a scary holiday, which is why it’s important to make sure they’re safe and easily identified.

Columbus-based Pet FBI, or “Found by Internet,” predicts July 5 once again will be the busiest day of the year for its free national pet lost and found database. Shelters typically see around a 30 percent increase in lost pets between July 4 and 6, according to Pet FBI director Leslie Poole.

Fortunately, pet owners can take steps to better protect their furry friends.

BE PREPARED

“If you have a dog, you’re probably familiar, or hopefully you’re aware of the anxiety level that your particular dog has,” Mahoning County Dog Warden Dianne Fry said.

Fry said when she worked at a veterinarian’s office, she saw dogs that went through plate glass windows, dug through walls or scratched up carpet trying to escape fireworks. Fry said she had a dog that scraped its back going under a chain-link fence when errant fireworks went off in the afternoon.

Corey Behnke, chief dog warden at Trumbull County’s dog pound, said some dogs, such as his mother’s, might try to go after fireworks.

Both said their dog pounds see an increase in lost and found dogs over the Fourth holiday, and both agreed if you’re a pet owner, it’s important to be prepared.

Microchipping a pet and keeping the information up-to-date is the best way to make sure the animal can be returned easily if it escapes. Identification such as a dog tag with owner information also is helpful.

Identification is especially important for dogs that look similar to other dogs of the same breed, Fry said. Mahoning County’s dog pound once had three almost indistinguishable white Chihuahuas at the same time, which became a problem when trying to return the dogs to their owners.

Behnke said owners of animals that need important medication should make sure they have their medicine before festivities in case they get loose.

He said owners can watch dogs’ body language to see if they are upset. For dogs with known anxieties, it is good to put them in secure rooms or crates, play soft music or the TV, or put them in a “thunder jacket,” a weighted jacket meant to comfort pets.

Fry said she takes her dogs to the basement, where they can’t hear explosions as well. She said in some cases, it’s worth talking to a veterinarian about getting anxiety medicine for pets.

Checking fenced-in yards for holes or escape points also is a good idea, according to Pet FBI. The site recommends exercising pets early in the day so they’re tired during the festivities, leaving animals at home when going to an event with fireworks, and being extra careful of opening and closing doors when hosting at home. Plus, it’s good to have a current, high-quality photo of your pet in case it does get out.

LOST AND FOUND

If an animal is lost, Fry said the best places to call are your county dog pound and your local police department, as well as area veterinarians.

Social media also can be a great tool for finding a lost pet. Several pet “lost and found” pages exist on Facebook, including Trumbull County Pets & Surrounding Area Lost & Found and Lost and Found Dogs Youngstown, Ohio, as well as broader groups for all of Ohio. Pet FBI’s national database is available at www.petfbi.org.

Fry warns, however, to be wary of “found pet” scams from people claiming to have a lost animal and seeking money.

She recommends always bringing found dogs to the county dog pound, which has a procedure in place for making sure animals are returned to the correct owners.

“If you bring a dog here, the dog is safe,” Fry said. “You can be on social media and say, ‘Hey, I found that dog. I took it straight to the pound.'”

Both county dog pounds have a mandatory three-day stray hold before dogs become adoptable. Fry said anyone who finds a dog and wants to keep it can have their name taken down to be the first person called when the stray hold is up, should the owner not be found.

Behnke reminded everyone planning to shoot off fireworks — even those who do not have pets — to be aware of their surroundings and aware of animals in the neighborhood.

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