Correction: A previous version of this article named Theresa Westfall with an incorrect last name in one paragraph. On July 13, Westfall's name was corrected.
People and pets all around Bellingham are preparing for the Fourth of July. However, pets and other animals can be easily frightened during this holiday due to fireworks going off or other loud events across the neighborhood.
“We moved from Ferndale into Bellingham because there are fewer fireworks in Bellingham,” said dog owner Amanda Richeson. “Ferndale is like a total war zone until the wee hours of the morning. One year we traveled and rented a place in the mountains so we wouldn’t have to be near them.”
“Many animals, domestic wildlife and livestock become absolutely terrified by the noisy neighborhood and community fireworks,” said Laura Clark, executive director of the Whatcom Humane Society, in a press release on June 30. “With a little pre-holiday planning you can enjoy the holiday and have peace of mind that your companion animal is safe at home.”
The Whatcom Humane Society recommends some tips for pet owners:
“Do not take your pet to large or small fireworks displays or gatherings where fireworks are being set off.”
“Keep your pet indoors at home in a quiet area of the house. Leave a television or radio on while you are away to keep your pet company and mask the sound of fireworks outside. Leave your pet with his/her favorite toy, a chew bone, or other items to keep them occupied.”
“Do not leave your pet outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or in a kennel. Many dogs will dig or jump out of fenced yards or kennels in their attempt to escape the loud noises.”
“Make sure your companion animals are wearing collars, licenses, and/or identification tags at all times. This is your pet’s best chance at being reunited with you if lost.”
Theresa Westfall, a doctor of veterinary medicine at Bellingham Veterinary, encourages everyone to be aware of other animals during the Fourth of July.
“Fireworks cause an enormous amount of anxiety for all animals, not just what we think of as pets,” Westfall said via email. “Livestock, horses, deer, etc. are all frightened by the noise and light. It causes changes in their behavior from not eating and drinking to displacement from their normal habitat by running from the sound and lights.”
Westfall said people also use medication to calm pets, but their symptoms may vary. Anti-anxiety medications require being administered beforehand in order to work.
Even with all these solutions, Richeson finds a challenge with her dogs on the Fourth of July.
“On a regular year, we have CBD oil for dogs that helps a little,” Richeson said. “We close up the house, put on a fan for white noise, and create a space in the closet where they can go and hide.” Richeson said in an email. “We make sure they get out to go potty early so we don’t have to risk having them outside during the worst of it. All of these have mixed results. Typically we just have to ride the night out.”
If your pet goes missing during the holiday weekend, Whatcom Humane Society is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday through Monday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For after-hours and holiday emergencies, call 911 and a WHS animal control officer will be in contact.
Michael Flo is a city reporter for the front. His work focuses on community interests, and events around the city. When not reporting, Michael loves traveling, and cooking for his friends. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org