Why July 4 is deadly for shelter pets (and how YOU can help!)

Why are we talking about pets dying? This is a holiday!

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Sorry, this isn’t one of those fun blogs about vegan pasta salads or discounts on cruelty-free cleaning supplies. This is about the unnecessary deaths that infuriatingly happen every summer behind the walls of our nations’ animal shelters. And I know everyone loves to vilify the people that work in those places but no, this isn’t their fault.

Whose fault is it? Well, unfortunately it’s pretty much all of our faults. All of us that attend or celebrate fireworks shows, that is. I know, I know, I’m being a total buzzkill about the country’s obsession with exploding colorful things in the air. But someone has to be that buzzkill, and if I have to wear that hat, so be it. (This issue clearly makes me VERY grumpy)

How do fireworks result in shelter pets dying?

It’s pretty simple. Shelters across most of the country are already overcrowded with abandoned or lost pets. This is true all year round, and the sad fact is that when city shelters run out of space, they’re still required to take in new animals. They can’t just magically create more space and kennels, so they have to start killing. They kill the ones who’ve been there the longest, the ones that are injured, the ones that are older, the ones that are black (yep, black pets have lower adoption rates), the ones that are more common breeds (“pit bulls”, chihuahuas, and basically all cats), and the ones that may have nipped a shelter worker out of fear. So, shelters are already pretty dangerous.

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As soon as the clock strikes midnight on July 1, humans start exploding stuff. We explode stuff legally, we explode stuff illegally, and then we all get together and watch the city or the baseball stadium or SeaWorld (don’t get me started) explode a LOT of stuff. While we stare at the same red, white, and blue explosions we’ve seen dozens of times before, animals are losing their freaking minds. The most well-behaved dogs and cats suddenly find ways to escape your home- ways you never even thought possible. They scale 8-foot fences. They bust through glass windows. They claw through screen doors. And then they just start running.

Eventually, if they’re lucky enough to avoid being hit by a car, they end up being caught and taken to a shelter. They join the dozens, sometimes hundreds, of other fireworks-inspired escape artists in kennels and cages. Depending on the location, there may already be empty cages waiting for them, because the shelter staff is so used to seeing this every single year that they’ve already begun euthanizing animals in previous days.

To sum up:

  • Shelters are already overcrowded by people abandoning, overbreeding, or losing animals
  • More pets go missing over the 4th of July holiday than any other time of year, because fireworks terrify them
  • To make room for the loose pets running from fireworks, other pets have to be killed

Yikes, how can I help?

I’m glad you asked! There are a few things you can do to help, and I highly encourage you to do at least one of them:

#1: Adopt a Pet- quickly!

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Photo by John Hwang

If you aren’t already familiar with your local shelter, the easiest way to find it is by Googling your city name plus “animal shelter”. Most shelters will have an online database with animals’ photos, but they will likely be horrible quality and not do justice to any of the individuals, so it’s best to meet them in person!

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Seen at the Carson Animal Shelter near Los Angeles, CA (click here to view larger)

You can also check the online databases of petfinder.com and rescueme.org, which list profiles and information about animals both in shelters and with independent rescue groups. Independent rescue groups differ from shelters in that their animals are not at risk for being killed, but adopting from them still saves a life by opening up space for the rescuers to go get another animal from death row at a shelter.

Tip: Many shelters either reduce or completely do away with adoption fees around July 4, in hopes of emptying the shelters without having the euthanize. Check your shelter’s social media pages to see if they do something similar!

#2: Foster a Pet- quickly!

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Many people (myself formerly included) don’t understand how crucial foster homes are to the rescue process. You can either foster an animal directly from the city shelter (find your local shelter here), or through an independent rescue group. Most independent rescues rely on their network of foster homes to take care of their rescued animals until a forever home can be found. Without foster homes, the person running the non-profit can only rescue as many dogs as they’re allowed in their home (unless they’re put into a boarding facility, which is expensive and far from ideal). Fostering is an incredible way to take part in the process without having to make a lifelong commitment!

36276017_10156476767626228_298108577594212352_nIf you’re in Los Angeles, check out LA Animal Services’ foster plea here! You can foster for only four days- you can surely give the four days if it means saving a life!

I know, fostering sounds sad, because you have to say goodbye at the end when your foster pet finds a new family. But you know what’s way more sad? That animal dying in a shelter because you were too afraid of the sadness.

Some rescue groups will even pay for all expenses (food, veterinary care, etc) for the animal as long as you’re willing to take care of him/her! If the rescue holds weekly or monthly adoption events, you may be asked to bring the animal to and from the event, but some groups coordinate that transportation for you. To find a local organization in need of fosters, again I recommend searching the directory on petfinder.com.

Each organization is different, but many will have foster applications on their website. Once you’ve been approved, just wait until they contact you with information about the next animal they’re “pulling” (rescue lingo for taking out of the shelter). Soon you’ll have a grateful new friend to cuddle and hang out with until they’ve found their forever home! Below is a short list of organizations I personally know are ALWAYS looking for willing fosters! If you’d like me to add your organization to the list, just let me know via email or a comment:

#3: Donate to a Rescue Group

Rescues always need money. The more money they receive, the more resources they have, and the more animals they’re able to save. It’s pretty simple. If you aren’t able to open your home right now, please open your wallet. Send as much as you can to a local rescue group (or one of the groups mentioned above) with a friendly note encouraging them to pull more animals from the shelter this week. Depending on their current situation, they may or may not be able to accommodate more animals immediately, but you’ll play a role in saving the next pet they have room for.

#4: Don’t leave your pets alone!

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I know, this is a time of year full of vacations and lake trips and camping and all that. But please, don’t leave pets unattended in your home at night. Every. Single. Year. I read post after post from people saying, “he never got out before!” or, “I have no idea how she escaped!” Animals are creative, especially when they think they’re fleeing for their lives. And when the sky is exploding, they get pretty motivated.

If you MUST leave them alone, please triple check all your locks, turn on the television or loud music, and ideally keep them in the most soundproof part of the house. They’ll be safest in an enclosed room, as opposed to having free run of the house. By making sure your pets don’t get out, you’re making sure another pet isn’t killed to make room for yours at the shelter.

#5: SHARE this post with friends and family!

I’m always shocked by how few people are aware of this annual crisis. I’m kicking myself for not writing this post weeks earlier to give you all time to make plans, but you’ll have to just share and act quickly! Make sure the people in your life know a) how dangerous this time of year is for their pets and b) how they can help out!

2 thoughts

  1. Thank you so much! Please add our rescue group to the list, Recycled Pomeranians and Schipperkes Rescue. We’re in the DFW area. We always need fosters and funds – we fully vet them all, including dental and HW treatment, microchip, and vaccinations. We are a 501(c)3 in the Dallas area.

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