Fireworks frighten pets and disturb humans. It’s up to us to protect them • Long

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That’s the shortest and most succinct of the many posts on the Long Beach Against Illegal Fireworks Facebook group berating the booms and bangs that have been terrorizing the pets of Long Beach residents as well as combat veterans and others suffering from PTSD. Also, just folks like you and me who just want a night of uninterrupted sleep.

Around this time every year, The Scratching Post tries to help humans living with animals keep their pets safe and sane from firework use in the city. But sheesh—they’ve been going off continually since May—May 2020, that is. Getting out of Dodge with the Dog Week has replaced the real meaning of Independence Day as July 4 has become the culmination of a string of celebrations of any occasion that people want to mark with insufferable noise: winning the World Series, losing the World Series, Mother’s Day, Groundhog Day (sure to affect climate change when the little guy won’t even come out of the burrow to look for their shadow) and moving out of their parents’ basement.

Lit-up signs warn that fireworks are illegal in Long Beach. Pleas on posters and yard signs advise that military veterans live nearby and ask that pyrotechnics not be set off anywhere. Ken Weiss and the Safety Squad’s PSAs were an impressive product of time and effort to educate people about the dangers of fireworks and their effects on animals and humans. They used cartoon episodes as a medium so that anyone could understand the message.

But if any of the efforts had a positive effect, it’s not noticeable. Scofflaws feel the need to set off fireworks—they like mindless excitement and might get a selfish, sadistic kick out of upsetting people. Anything you post or I write here isn’t going to shame them. So, again, it’s up to us to protect our pets, our neighbors and ourselves.

One organization doing that is the aforementioned Long Beach Against Illegal Fireworks, a growing group of fed-up folks who want legal action from the city and, of course, to collectively vent. The group has appealed to council members, the mayor and city prosecutor Doug Haubert.

“My eyes were really opened to this problem in a significant way last year,” Haubert said, referring to effects of fireworks on family pets described by members of Long Beach Against Illegal Fireworks in victim impact statements they’d sent him. “The people discharging illegal fireworks are causing real harm to some animals. People need to understand that all dogs are different just like all people are different, and the sounds and smells of fireworks to some dogs amounts to painful torture.”

Cats, too, of course, though the pyrotechnics seem to terrify more dogs than cats. Last year, Haubert’s office set up a portal for reporting illegal discharge of fireworks discharge to review evidence. This year, updated fines and penalties for setting off explosives will extend to holding landlords liable as well as their tenants and will include fees for storage of any confiscated pyrotechnics. Before this year, a police officer had to witness fireworks being exploded before issuing a citation. Now, other evidence that points to the person setting them off will be welcomed.

“Anyone who submits photos or videos of illegal fireworks discharge will have that evidence reviewed,” Haubert said. “Last year, we filed three criminal cases where people were caught on video setting off dangerous fireworks. These are the ones that are discharged into the air or sound like a bomb exploding. Those are the fireworks that also cause house and brushfires. We really need to put an end to this. There is no way our police force can patrol every street looking for illegal fireworks, especially as we get close to July 4. That’s why residents need to be involved.”

Which brings us back to the heart of the story—animals. It’s up to us to protect them as best as we can. My friend Brandy Gaunt, a cat rescuer who says whatever is on her considerable mind and damn the consequences, posted this on Lakewood and Long Beach Lost and Found Pets:

 

You have 15 days to:

  • fix that busted gate latch that you keep procrastinating on
  • get your dog a new collar and tags (please include your address and phone number on the tag. It’s so much easier to return a found dog when there is an address on the tag!)
  • make sure your dogs’ microchips are registered with your current info
  • get your dogs microchipped if they aren’t already
  • make a reservation at PetSmart pet hotel if you are going to go party so your dogs aren’t left home alone. They will need to be current on their vaccinations, so you will need time to get an appointment anyway. [Note: any approved pet hotel will do just fine as well, not just for partying but also if you decide to get out of town and can’t take the fur kid. Get those vaccinations done. If they’re vaxxed and you don’t have the paperwork, call the vet.]
  • get your dogs a vet appointment so you can get a prescription for anxiety medication (many vets are still hard to get into on short notice thanks to the pandemic, so you should act soon so they can get you in) [And one more from me: don’t self-medicate on the part of your dogs or cats. There’s enough advertised CBD oil to mellow out a dog park full of Jack Russell terriers, but your pet’s vet should be the one to advise and prescribe.]
  • A few from last years column include crating your dog, if they’re crate trained, and cover the crate with a blanket.
  • You can try Thundershirts for both dogs and cats—they’re pet-swaddling vests created to reduce anxiety. They run upward of $40 in price. I’ve never tried them on the cats, but people I know have used them for their pets and like them. Social-media posts recommend wrapping your pet in a snug-fitting shirt, an ACE bandage or any piece of material if the Thundershirt isn’t in your budget. There are videos online for the wrapping procedures.
  • Create as peaceful an environment as you can in your home. Play soothing music, and lower the blinds to block outside sights and sounds. If your pet seems anxious, spend time with them, speaking in a calm voice. Close your windows, which can be a pain if there’s no air conditioning, or put them in a room during explosion times with a loud fan running. Put in a favorite toy or an article of your clothing that they’re used to.
  • Some of the celebrations are returning this year. Please, don’t bring the dog. They likely won’t enjoy themselves and might run off. Shelters fill with pets every year who’ve run in terror from their humans—those are the lucky ones who don’t get injured or killed by vehicles. Please keep your pet inside during fireworks season. Hey, that’s all year now. Hope I’ve convinced you.

 

Virtually Pets

Several years running, Live Love Animal Rescue has sponsored Foster the Fourth, a period when the rescue’s volunteers mobilize people willing to foster dogs to help clear kennel space for the frightened ones that the animal control officers rescue from the streets. Not this year, though—frightened animals will probably continue to be brought in, but the pandemic, its aftermath and other things have put a kibosh on the rescue’s efforts.

“We won’t be planning a massive shelter pull this July,” said Angela Robinson, Live Love’s lead Woof Agent. “We are hoping to do some targeted shelter pulls to take large dogs out, but it’s going to depend somewhat on adoption returns—we’ve been getting hit hard with those requests for the last two weeks, unfortunately.”

If you can help clear the shelter for terrified animals, here’s an idea: adopt or foster a few of them, and keep them inside huddled under a blanket with you until the nonsense dies down. They’re all at Long Beach Animal Care Services along with a considerable number of other cats, dogs and rabbits whom you can check out here. The shelter’s adoptions and fostersare conducted through appointment only, so call…

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