SALT LAKE CITY — Many Utahns enjoyed the sky filling with fireworks Wednesday, but Utah pets had a rough night as several county animal shelters saw a rise in stray pets likely from fireworks fright.
"We had a significant influx of reported strays, probably double than what we usually see, at least," on Wednesday and Thursday, according to Rhett Nicks, director of animal control at Davis County Animal Shelter.
He noted that his area also had a couple of horses escape and run away "directly attributed to the fireworks." Additionally, a few dogs that appeared to get out because of fireworks ran into the street and were hit by cars.
"Fourth of July is pretty much our busiest time of the year," said Emily Pratt, a technician with North Utah Valley Animal Shelter. "We had a spike in pets this week."
Pratt said another factor putting pets at risk is that many people are on vacation and have others watching their pets.
"With fireworks, they have very sensitive hearing, and a lot of times the owners are either gone or strange people are around that they aren't familiar with," she said.
Pratt said the stray pets brought to their shelter during the July holidays include dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and other smaller pets "that you wouldn't expect."
"A lot of times people don't realize how scared cats get with fireworks, especially with outdoor cats," she said. "Bring them inside during the week of the Fourth. It might run off farther away than it's used to and end up in an unfamiliar place, disoriented, not knowing how to get back."
Carrie Ward, licensing specialist at the South Utah Valley Animal Shelter, said the loud noises from the large Fourth of July celebrations, including the morning Grand Parade and the night Stadium of Fire, drove many animals to run away.
She predicts there are several more pets that ran away during the fireworks Wednesday night that haven't yet made it to the shelter.
Jayson Swenson, supervisor at Provo Animal Control, said "if we can't make contact with the owner if they're not tagged, then we drop them off at the shelter."
None of the pets Swenson and his crew picked up Wednesday and Thursday were wearing IDs, he said.
Not all shelters saw an increase in strays.
"I wouldn't say a whole lot more," said Ashley Haslam, Weber County's animal shelter director. "We've had a lot more calls of people missing their dogs or pets that haven't been in the shelter yet."
Haslam said 13 stray dogs arrived Wednesday and Thursday along with several cats.
Salt Lake County's animal shelter, which receives four or five dogs a day, reports no increase this holiday.
A Humane Society spokeswoman says there are ways to keep a pet safe this time of year.
"Some animals get really traumatized from it," said Deann Shepherd, director of marketing and communications for the Humane Society of Utah. "All of a sudden there's this artillery going on outside ... when you're scared of something, you want to run away from it."
Because an animal's sense of hearing is much more sensitive than a human's, pets should be kept inside the house or garage while fireworks are happening, Shepherd said. Sometimes, a pet kept in a yard can get so scared it digs its way under the fence or jumps over the fence, she said.
"Don't take your dog with you to see fireworks," she said. "Keep them in a safe room inside, either a bedroom or crate, where they can't get scared and run around the house because they can damage things. I did this with my own dog last night — played music to kind of drown it out."
Shepherd also said pet owners should make sure all pet licenses and identifiers are up to date and to check for any firework debris in their yard before letting their dogs back out.
Nicks said he and his crew can scan for microchips in the field or see if the dog has an identifier and return them home before they even bring them to the shelter. Consequently, he highly recommends pet owners get their dogs microchipped.1 comment on this story
If you lost a pet recently, the best thing to do is go to your county's animal shelter, Ward said. If your pet is not there when you first check, visit again later, as some runaway pets from Wednesday night have yet to get picked up, and post lost pet ads on Facebook and KSL, she said.
If you find a stray animal without identification, the best thing to do is check the lost and found pet pages on Facebook and KSL, and if you don't find the owner within 24 hours, bring it to the local shelter, Pratt said.
Animal shelters typically hold lost animals for five days before they put them up for adoption, Shepherd noted.