Fireworks Terrorize My Dog

Dogs, horses, and wildlife suffer from booming light shows.

Sometimes there's nowhere to hide.
Sometimes there's nowhere to hide. .

Jess Wealleans / Getty Images

At our house, I’m getting ready for the 4th of July. For me, that doesn’t mean patriotic decorations and party food. Instead, I’m preparing the walk-in closet as a safe space.

My dog Brodie becomes a quivering mess when he hears fireworks. He pants and paces. Or sometimes just stands and cowers at each whistle and boom. 

Over the years, I’ve tried pretty much everything to help calm him. He has a Thundershirt, which is a jacket that applies pressure like swaddling a baby. I’ve played soothing music, louder noise, television, and sounds made specifically for dogs. I’ve tried all sorts of natural remedies and concoctions including CBD and medications prescribed by my vet.

For thunderstorms and light pyrotechnic occasions sometimes just the jacket and hiding in the closet works. For the 4th, we’ll be pulling out all the stops. Brodie and I will be sleeping on the floor in the closet and at least one of us will be heavily medicated.

Also, this year, I’m fostering Gertie, a teeny blind puppy with supersonic hearing. She’s overly sensitive to sound so she’ll be joining us there just in case.

Busiest Day of the Year

Fireworks are woven into the fabric of this country. So many of us remember sitting somewhere on a blanket oohing and aahing over awesome light shows bursting overhead.

But perhaps you eventually started wondering whether fireworks might be bad for the environment. (Need more info? Treehugger design editor Lloyd Alter offers these 9 reasons to rant about fireworks.)

For me, though, I can’t get past the true terror my dog surely feels.

According to American Humane, July 5 is the busiest day of the year at animal shelters, as pets often run away from home trying to escape all the noise. They're often found many miles away, disoriented and exhausted.

Dogs aren't the only animals freaked out by the noise. There are a lot of horse farms around me. This time of year, people start pleading with neighbors not to set off fireworks. They talk about what it’s like to see frightened horses during the pyrotechnics.

Because horses are flight-or-fight animals, they will often race when they are frightened by the loud noises and injure themselves when trying to outrun the sounds.

Two years ago, a miniature donkey named Sammy died overnight during July 4 fireworks in Milton, Georgia, near where I live.

“The sounds were really loud, and I suspect he got scared out there and probably died of fright or heart attack,” his owner John Bogino of Seven Gables Farm told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Fireworks are legal in Georgia every day from 10 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. but local laws can temper that with noise ordinances. In Milton, there are exceptions for Jan. 1, Memorial Day weekend, July 3 and 4, and New Year’s Eve.

“You can’t shoot off noisy fireworks anywhere, anytime, in any way in Milton -- for good reason,” it says on the City of Milton website. “Part of it is being a good, considerate neighbor given fireworks potentially adverse effects on animals, especially horses, and people, such as veterans suffering from PTSD. There’s also the critical matter of protecting those in close proximity to fireworks as well as nearby structures, grasses, and trees.”

Fireworks and Birds

Pets aren’t the only animals that can suffer from fireworks. 

This past New Year’s Eve, hundreds of birds were found dead in Rome near the city’s main train station. Although no one knows for sure what killed the birds, which were mostly starlings, the International Organization for the Protection of Animals (OIPA) said it was a consequence of fireworks.

“This happens every year in many other countries and cities of the world, that's why we all must raise awareness,” the group posted on Facebook.

In fact, on New Year’s Eve 2010, about 5,000 red-winged blackbirds died when professional fireworks were illegally set off in Arkansas.

In 2008, a California commission found that fireworks were causing seabirds to abandon their nests.

In general, 4th of July fireworks don’t cause mass injuries to birds because they are spread out and don’t roost together in large numbers in summer.

“You’re going to scare a few robins here and there, but that’s not going to affect a large number of birds,” Kevin McGowan, of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, tells Audubon. 

But even a few robins, a few horses, a few dogs, or one miniature donkey is plenty.

Follow Mary Jo's dog Brodie and their foster puppies on Instagram @brodiebestboy.

View Article Sources
  1. "Holiday Issues." American Humane.

  2. "Fireworks in Milton." Milton.

  3. Giller, Geoffrey. "Are Fireworks Dangerous to Birds?" Audubon, 2013.