Bracing for an onslaught of terrified, runaway pets that fill animal shelters after every Fourth of July, city and county officials begged pet owners Tuesday to keep their animals inside and as far away as possible from fireworks.
"Fireworks can be terrifying for many pets, who may panic, harm themselves or run away," said Marcia Mayeda, director of the county's Department of Animal Care and Control, which counts July 4th and the days that follow as the busiest days of the year. "Pet owners are not always aware that their pets may react to the sounds and bright flashes of fireworks. This can trigger the fight or flight instinct."
Dogs and cats can escape from the smallest openings in houses and fenced yards in search of a safe place and may be injured in traffic or wind up in a crowded local shelter.
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Animal-care experts advised owners to:
-- make sure pets have up-to-date identification tags and, if possible, a microchip registered with owner contact information;
-- keep pets inside in an enclosed room or, if they must go outside, make sure gates and fences are very secure;
-- create a safe space at home, off limits to guests, with windows closed and covered, and plenty of water and food; and
-- be sure to leave animals with a very responsible party if leaving town for the holiday.
Owners who do lose their pets, despite all precautions, are urged to quickly post signs in the neighborhood and go to the city or county animal shelter nearest to where the animal was last seen with a photo and detailed information about the dog or cat.
Pets can be microchipped at any city or county animal service center, as well as most veterinary clinics. The cost at Los Angeles city centers is $25 per animal and an appointment can be scheduled at (888) 452-7381. Microchips make it possible to quickly reunite a lost pet with its owner.
Anyone interested in fostering a pet for a few days, which can make a difference between life and death for dogs and cats as some shelters fill beyond capacity, was urged to reach out to local animal control agencies.
The Los Angeles Animal Services lost pet database can be searched at www.laanimalservices.com and more tips about lost pets can also be found at http://animalcare.lacounty.gov.