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Animal shelters hit with annual surge of runaway pets following Fourth of July

They spend months preparing to make room for the inevitable influx of animals trying to run away

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Animal shelters across the country are experiencing their busiest time of the year in the days surrounding the Fourth of July weekend.

The Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), along with many other shelters in the greater Sacramento region, are feeling the aftermath of the massive firework shows just as they do every year.

“Most shelters that we've talked to are feeling overwhelmed right now with the number of pets that came in over the holiday weekend,” said Sacramento SPCA marketing director, Dawn Foster. “As soon as fireworks can be legally sold, you start seeing the effects of those fireworks on the impact of the animals coming into the shelters.”

Shelters spend months preparing for the Fourth of July by attempting to make room for the inevitable influx of runaway animals, particularly dogs, trying to get away from the loud fireworks.

According to Foster, some shelters began seeing the rush of new animals as early as the week before the holiday.

“It's a wonderful holiday for us humans, but unfortunately it's a pretty frightening holiday for most of the four-legged animals in our lives,” said Foster. “Cats, dogs and small animals just don't like the big bangs, booms, and pops.”

Sacramento SPCA encourages anyone whose dog may have run away over the holiday weekend to take the necessary steps to retrieve them as soon as possible.

“I know there's a lot of fees being waived for reclaiming, so that's one way to encourage people to find their pets,” said Foster. 

If another person’s dog is found, Foster says it's best to keep them around, if possible, and try finding the owner as a way to relieve already overflowing shelters.

“We always love it if folks can hold onto the lost pet and try to reunite them again in their community without them having to come into the shelter,” said Foster.

According to Foster, a lost animal has a better chance of being reunited with its owner when it remains in the area where it was found. She adds many pet owners will either fail to or neglect to find their pet.

“We just encourage people to continue to look at all the shelters in their region and in the Greater Sacramento region for their animals and continue to look for the next couple of weeks,” said Foster. “An animal might be hanging out at a good Samaritan's house for a couple of days and they might be trying to do all these things before they take the animal to the shelter and then might be forced to take them down there.”

While there’s no way to stop the fireworks, there are some ways for pet owners to prepare for future holidays.

Sacramento SPCA stresses getting your cats and dogs microchipped and making sure they have identification tags.

“It's $25 to microchip your pet here at the Sacramento SPCA and I know a lot of the agencies in the Sacramento region will do special low cost and free clinics,” said Foster. “We also recommend it to people that didn't have time to get a microchip or go get new tags, worst case scenario, your backup plan is taking a sharpie and writing your phone number on your dog's collar.”

Foster says there are also steps pet owners can take before the chaos to keep pets calm and feeling safe at home.

“Bringing them inside the house, finding a comfortable place for them to stay and then making that space as comfortable as possible. Making sure they have plenty of food and water, creating some ambient noise in the background to kind of drown out the outdoor sounds,” she said. “Playing some music, turning the TV on, all those things kind of distract that animal from thinking about what's going on outside while you also have them contained in a safe place in your house.”

Sacramento SPCA also suggests getting pets lots of exercise to tire them out before the fireworks begin.

More tips and information can be found on the Sacramento SPCA’s website.

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