The Fourth of July is over, but Heritage Humane Society officials are cautioning Williamsburg-area pet owners that they are “not out of the woods yet” when it comes to fireworks.
Since Wednesday, Heritage has only taken in three stray animals, but the shelter may see more strays in the upcoming days, shelter spokeswoman Darci Vanderslik said.
Two of the animals — both dogs — have been returned to their owners.
Independence Day fell on a Wednesday this year, meaning it’s possible local residents will continue to shoot off amateur fireworks through the weekend, spooking some family pets, Vanderslik said.
While the shelter hasn’t taken in many strays in recent days, it has received a handful of emails and lost pet reports, Vanderslik said. More may be made in upcoming days, because some owners may not report their pet missing until a day or two after they run off, she said.
“It is heartbreaking when we see a pet come in as a stray, a lost pet report being filed, or an owner frantically call us in hopes that their pet is here, and safe,” Vanderslik said.
Prepare ahead for fireworks
Vanderslik believes a Fourth of July awareness program has helped cut down on the number of strays coming in following this year’s holiday.
“We feel like the amount of awareness spread ahead of time was well worth it,” Vanderslik said. “We spent a lot of time and resources educating pet owners in our area about the dangers of fireworks — and we believe that helped significantly.”
In preparation for July Fourth, Heritage released a list of tips for pet owners to help avoid crises during fireworks.
The American Veterinary Association says noisy fireworks and other celebrations can startle animals and cause them to run. In addition, holiday-related food can be unhealthy for animals, and travel and heat can be dangerous for pets.
During fireworks shows, Heritage recommends keeping pets indoors, shutting all windows and doors, turning on a television or relaxing music to help distract pets from the noise, and keeping pets distracted in an interactive way with toys or treats.
Pet owners should also make sure microchip and identification tags are up to date.
Reuniting with a lost pet
If pets are microchipped or have a collar on, Heritage will immediately call the phone number associated with the tag, Vanderslik said. The shelter’s team also scans social media for lost pet postings.
The American Veterinary Association suggests making sure both dogs and cats have identification tags with up-to-date information. Horses should also have a breakaway halter with the owner’s contact information.
If a pet goes missing, Vanderslik said owners should fill out a lost pet report and upload a photo. The lost pet report is posted on the shelter’s walls and sent to all staff.
“We go the extra mile to reunite pets and their owners,” she said.
And if you don’t immediately locate your pet, don’t worry — Virginia Code requires stray animals with a collar, ear tip, microchip or tattoo to be held for 10 full days before being put up for adoption.
Animals without any identifying marks or collars are held for five days before being put on the adoption list.
“Though our fingers are crossed that no more lost pet reports come in, or no more strays come through our doors, the days leading up to, and after the 4th can be challenging,” Vanderslik said.