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12:03 PM Thu, Sept. 20th

Column: July 4 is most dangerous night of the year for pets

The 4th of July is a time for outdoor celebrations, picnics, barbecues and, of course, fireworks. Before you pack up to go to the lake or the outdoor arena, stadium or even your own front yard to enjoy the pyrotechnic delights of the holiday, be extra-aware of your pets' needs and fears.

The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) experiences a significant increase in the number of lost (and injured) pets brought to our Lost & Found Pet Center after every July 4 celebration.

"The day after the 4th of July is hands down the busiest day of the year at YHS with people turning in lost pets or looking for lost animals," said Amber Lang, supervisor of the YHS Lost & Found Pet Center, located at 1625 Sundog Ranch Road, off Prescott Lakes Parkway in Prescott.

Even pets who are normally calm and obedient can show unpredictable behavior when frightened. Dogs and cats can become frightened or confused by the excitement and loud noises of the holiday. YHS has rescued terrified pets who have chewed through their tethers, jumped through plate glass windows or over fences, and escaped "secure" enclosures.

Dogs attempting to flee the frightening, and even painful noises of the fireworks may lose their sense of direction and run long distances risking injury or death as they dart in and out of traffic. This is one of the most dangerous times of year for your pets.

Up close, Fourth of July fireworks can burn or injure your pets, but even if they are far away, they still pose a serious danger to your companion animals.

To minimize the danger to Fido or Fluffy on this most raucous patriotic holiday, take these few simple steps before you set out to celebrate this Fourth of July:

• Keep pets indoors in an enclosed area that they are familiar with to minimize fear. If possible, turn on a radio to mask the sound of the fireworks or other celebratory noises.

• If your pet is excitable, consult with your vet ahead of time to arrange administration of a calming drug.

• If you have to be away for an extended time, board your pets with family or friends you trust and can assure you that the pet will be kept confined and cared for.

• Always be sure your pet has a current license and/or microchip. A microchip is the best identification for a pet because it is always with him and it makes it easier for YHS to find you should the unthinkable happens and your pet manages to escape.

• Even if you think your pet is OK with fireworks and noise, do not let him out when fireworks are being lit and set off. The pet may run at them and sustain serious burns, or bolt and run.

If your pet happens to escape during the holiday festivities, be diligent in visiting the YHS Lost & Found Pet Center every day, and posting "Lost Dog" or "Lost Cat" signs and canvassing surrounding neighborhoods. Place a yard sign in front of your house with a picture of your pet and your phone number. People who find lost pets will often walk or drive around the area attempting to find the owner. Remember, fright can drive an animal to new and unfamiliar grounds, many miles from your home. So, exhaust all avenues. This 4th of July holiday can be the best ever if you take these simple precautions to keep your pets safe and happy while you enjoy the festivities.

Reminder: YHS Pet Adoption Center is closed to the public every Monday and Tuesday through Labor Day.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at eboks@yavapaihumane.org or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.