Don’t scare pets to death

Fireworks set off on and around July 4 take a toll on animals.

Ranger, a Norwood Park cat, died after being frightened by fireworks in July 2022.

Ranger, a Norwood Park cat, died after being frightened by fireworks last year.

Provided

This 4th of July won’t be the same for Margaret and Chuck Hagopian, longtime residents of Norwood Park.

“We lost our cat Ranger, to a heart attack caused by people on the next block shooting off M-80’s on July 9, 2022,” Margaret wrote. “When an unexpected and sudden series of explosions rang out, our cat ran out of the room in overwhelming fear hiding under our bed only to die minutes later of a heart attack.”

I’d never heard of a cat having a heart attack, never mind one induced by fireworks. But there is no question that pets can find the loud noises of firecrackers terrifying.

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“Some dogs and cats will have a fight-or-flight response to fireworks,” the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports. “This is a very real adrenaline rush, causing their blood pressure and heart rate to rise.”

That said, the risk of pets actually dying is “very unlikely — but not impossible,” according to one veterinary expert, who said an underlying condition, like damage from heartworm, is often a factor.

The Hagopians’ Ranger was only 12.

“Our cats notoriously lived to 20,” Margaret said.

They also noted that while once fireworks were confined to the Fourth of July or, at most, the evening before, lately some neighborhoods seem to have weeklong pyrotechnic festivals.

“Since when did July 4th become a season?” Margaret asked. “From late June throughout July, pet owners throughout the city deal with terrorized pets hiding in fear because of careless and thoughtless individuals launching these explosives well into the early hours of the morning. They’re loud and they go on forever.”

They pointed out that their concern is not limited to pets, but veterans or law enforcement personnel who might suffer from PTSD and would appreciate their evenings not being split by explosions.

All well and good. So what would they tell someone who made a special trip to Indiana and came back with a trunkful of fireworks from Krazy Kaplans?

“Get rid of ’em,” Margaret said. “Maybe have some peaceful celebrations, reflecting on what this holiday is all about, rather than making all this noise all around you. It’s not healthy. It’s not legal. It’s not appreciated.”

That has to be a nonstarter — I can’t imagine anyone dumping their expensive Starburst Mortars and Beehive Bombardments just because some cat somewhere might be disturbed. The practice of jumping the gun, and shooting off fireworks well before the Fourth, is an indication of just how much people are hot to use them. They just can’t wait.

As a rule, I don’t like for the column to advocate the impossible, and I recognize that a Venn diagram of “People Setting Off Fireworks in the Middle of the Street at 2 a.m. July 1” and “People Who Read This Column” would have no overlap at all.

But pet owners do read, and so might avail themselves to a few preventative measures before the bombardment starts. There are tranquilizers, if you have time to plan ahead. If not, close the windows and the blinds, turn on the air conditioner for white noise, or soothing music. Be around to hug and comfort your dogs and cats.

Otherwise, carry on as best you can.

The Hagopians’ surviving cat, Truffle, “went into a depression after Ranger died,” Charles said. So the couple went to PAWS and adopted Carmie.

They know this isn’t the biggest issue for many, maybe most, people. But it’s important to them, and many pet owners. I know our dog Kitty hates fireworks.

“This may not seem important or relevant in light of everything going on in our country,” Charles wrote. “But if you have a pet, you know that they are beloved members of your family and treated as such. Take a moment to look at your pet. Hug and kiss them — my wife and I will never have that opportunity again thanks to the reckless and insensitive actions of participants in a recent neighborhood block party.”

I figure, if nothing else, c’mon, kids, hop on your bikes and go to some abandoned corner of town to set off your fireworks instead of blowing them up right in the middle of your block. That isn’t asking too much, right? Besides, it might make it harder to get caught. Fewer people being bothered means fewer people calling the cops on you. A win-win.

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