Preparing for Fireworks
This year, many are hoping to skip the fireworks - and their resulting damage. Our recent record-breaking heat and dry spring have increased our region’s risk of wildfire. And after 1.5 years of struggling with COVID-19, our hospitals, 911 operators, and first responders are under a lot of strain.
Many cities and communities have banned or limited the use of fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday. But it's wise to be prepared so your pets aren't frightened or lost.
Even when explosions are miles away, flashes of light and loud, high-pitched noises can terrify pets, livestock, and wildlife. Common reactions include freezing or paralysis, uncontrolled attempts to escape and hide, tremors, excess salivation, urination or defecation, increased activity, hyper alertness, and gastrointestinal disorders. If they escape, pets and livestock can get lost or hit by cars. Wildlife can become disoriented and lost, unable to return home.
Every year, animals get burned, blinded, and poisoned by fireworks. Dogs are especially likely to eat fireworks, which contain several types of chemicals and heavy metals. Those poisons also get in our air and water, which further impact animals.
Fireworks can emit sounds of up to 190 decibels, which is louder than gunshots (140 decibels) and some jet planes (100 decibels). The human ear can be damaged by noises greater than 75 decibels, and many animals are even more sensitive to loud noise.
- Keep pets inside. Don’t leave them outside where they might jump a fence. Keep them in a room with closed windows and a secure door - many pets can get through a screen if they try hard enough. Turn on a fan, TV, radio, or gentle music to help block noise. Some pets prefer a very small safe space, such as a closet or bathroom. Give them a bed, water, and chew toys to make sure they are comfortable.
- Keep ID on and current. All pets, even indoor-only ones, should wear a collar with an identification tag that includes your name and telephone number. An identification microchip is even better - it is embedded in your pet and cannot be lost. Make sure the microchip company has your most up-to-date contact information.
- Walk or exercise dogs. Take them out in the early evening before fireworks start. This will help them get out their energy before the more stressful late evening hours. When walking your dog, make sure their collar and harness are extra snug and secure. Using two leashes, one clipped to the harness and one to the collar, can help keep hold of your dog if they panic.
- Try an anti-anxiety dog vest. If you don’t have one, try a snugly fitting harness or shirt.
- Stay with them. One of the best things you can do for your pets is to be present for them. You can calm them better than a pet sitter or a kennel staff member. If you see that they’re afraid, go to them or invite them to join you where you are. Give rubs and scratches. Talk with them. Be silly with them. Play their favorite games. Turn a scary experience into a learning opportunity.
- Consider medication. For pets with extreme reactions to fireworks, there are prescription and non-prescription products available to help with anxiety. Talk with your veterinarian about options. Give a practice dose of the medication before the 4th of July to see how your pet responds to the medication. And never share prescription medication with another pet or give more than the recommended amount.
- Leave pets at home. Don’t take them to firework displays, as this increases the likelihood they will become lost in an unfamiliar area. And never leave them in your car while you watch a fireworks display.
- Clean up. If there are used fireworks on the ground, make sure you thoroughly clean up before letting your pets have access to the area.
If you find a stray animal, keep them with you until your local shelter is open and ready to receive them. Oregon Humane Society accepts stray cats from Clackamas County by appointment only.
If you lose a pet.
- Check animal services agencies. Many have lost-and-found listings on their website. If you don’t see your pet listed on the website, file a lost pet report online. And make sure your pet’s license has your current contact info.
- Update microchip contact info. Scanning for a microchip is one of the first things Animal Control Officers, neighborhood veterinary clinics, and shelter workers do to find information about a lost pet without a collar and tag.
- Search on Petco Love Lost. This is a new service that uses facial recognition technology to help match photos of lost pets with found animals in our community. The service is free.
- Search your neighborhood. Try to attract them with fragrant, wet food. Cats that are used to being indoors are often found hiding under a bush in front of their owner’s home.
- Ask your neighbors to help. If you hang flyers, include your contact info and a photo and description of the missing pet. You can also use websites like Craigslist or NextDoor to get the message out.
Clackamas County Dog Services
Clark County Animal Protection and Control / Humane Society for Southwest Washington
564-397-2488, clark.wa.gov/code-administration/lost-and-found-pets, 360-693-4746, southwesthumane.org
Columbia County Animal Control
Multnomah County Animal Services
*Multnomah County is not currently charging boarding fees, so there is no fee to reclaim lost animals.
Washington County Animal Services / Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter
Your Pets Need You
Get Them Ready Today
Include your pets in your emergency plan. Make sure they're tagged and microchipped, prepare a kit for them, know how you would evacuate with them, have a shelter plan, and help others help you keep your pets safe.
Tag and Microchip
The Single Most Important Thing
Keep your pet's tags current, and get them micro-chipped. This is the single most important thing you can do to help ensure that you will be reunited with a lost pet.
- Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with visible ID tags at all times. Do this even if your pet normally stays indoors. Include your phone number on their tags.
- A microchip implant is a secure form of identification that can't be lost. If you're separated from your pet, a microchip will ensure that veterinary professionals can contact you. If you move or change your phone number, update your microchip online or with your vet.
Assemble a Kit
Gather supplies for your animals now so you can care for them during an emergency. Include supplies that you'll need if you have to leave your home or neighborhood.
Sturdy Harness, Leash, Cage, or Carrier
Animals can become frightened and stressed during an emergency. Make sure you have the supplies you need to control and contain them. For cats, choose a carrier that is large enough to serve as a temporary home.
Water, Food, and Sanitation Supplies
Include two week's worth of water, food, serving dishes, a manual can opener for canned food, clumping cat litter, a small litter box and scoop, and plastic bags for waste disposal. Pack your pet's kit in a backpack or travel carrier so it's easy to bring with you.
Medical Information and Supplies
Include medications and documentation, stored in a waterproof container. You have to foster or board your pets. Include documentation about feeding schedules, medicine schedules, medical conditions and records, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian. It can be helpful to have a pet first aid kit and book in case you need to care for wounds.
If possible, include a pet bed, treats, favorite toys, grooming items, and anti-stress remedies.
Photos for Identification
Include photos and tag/microchip info for your animals in case they get lost. You can keep digital copies on your phone or in "the cloud" in case the paper versions get damaged or lost.
Be Prepared to Evacuate
Know How to Go
You may need to leave your home or "evacuate" during an emergency. Sometimes pet owners will stay with their pets or leave their pets behind. But this is unsafe for both pet owners and rescue workers. During Hurricane Katrina, 44% of the people who chose not to evacuate said they didn't want to leave their pets. That's roughly 200,000 people.
Make plans now so that you can safely take your pets with you if you need to leave. And if you get separated, make sure you have ways to find them.
Have a Shelter Plan
If you need to leave your home, don't leave your pets behind. If it's not safe for you to stay, then it's unsafe for them to stay. During a large emergency, shelters will open to help address human needs. Stay informed to find out which ones will allow all pets and which will allow only service animals.
Have a Backup Plan
In case you aren't able to bring animals with you to a shelter, have a few backup plans.
- Check with friends and family who live outside your immediate area to see if they are willing and able to take them.
- Contact hotels outside your local area to check their policies on accepting pets. Ask about restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if "no pet" policies can be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of locations and phone numbers for "pet friendly" places in your emergency supply kit.
- Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency. Include 24-hour phone numbers.
Spay and Neuter
Spay and neuter your animals, as well as any stray or foster animals in your care. If you're separated from your animals, they may end up in an animal shelter, which could be overcrowded during an emergency.
Help Others, If You Can
If you can give temporary shelter to misplaced pets during a disaster, you may be able to save a person or an animal's life. If you take in a lost animal, let rescue organizations like the Humane Society know so that the animal can be reunited with its family.
Help Others Help You
Know Your Neighbors
You might not be home with a disaster hits. Your neighbors might be able to help your pets. They are more likely to help if they know you and your pets. Get to know your neighbors and talk to them about your emergency plans.
Include Pet Info in Your Emergency Plan
Your family's emergency plan should include information about your pets. This includes info such as: your pets' names, type of animal, age, color, breed, microchip info, medical info, veterinary info, and a photo of your pets. Give copies to everyone involved in the emergency plan.
Leave Clues for Emergency Workers
Put a "pet alert" sticker or sign in your window to let emergency workers know that pets are inside your home. Make sure the sticker is visible and includes the types and number of pets in your home. If you need to evacuate (and if time allows), write "evacuated" across the sticker so rescue workers don't delay by looking for pets that have already left the building.
Plan for Livestock
Planning for Emergencies
Caring for livestock during an emergency can be complicated. Plan ahead to ensure you can tend to their needs and safely evacuate them if necessary.
- Discuss and plan natural disaster management and evacuation of livestock with your veterinary professionals, neighbors, and local volunteer organizations.
- Plan for the possibility of being separated from your animals for a while.
- If you don't have a trailer, make connections ahead of time. Find nearby rental companies, talk to neighbors, and get to know local livestock groups, 4H, FFA, etc.
- Check out the American Veterinary Medical Association's brochure Saving the Whole Family (available in Spanish). This booklet includes detailed information on assembling emergency kits and plans for a wide variety of animal species.
Preparing to Evacuate
- Learn about Evacuation levels and how to be prepared.
- Follow your county's social media for livestock evacuation and reunification information.
- Make sure to bring copies of testing and vaccination paperwork. This is critical, especially if you cross state lines.