Recent increase in fireworks affecting pets; MSPCA behaviorist offers tips for owners

With numerous reports and complaints of fireworks popping up in neighborhoods across the city, many pets are becoming distressed by the constant loud sounds that sometimes continue into the early morning hours.

Many JP residents say their dogs and cats are affected by the increase in fireworks, which started in late April and still continue today. The Boston Police Department has confiscated fireworks in several neighborhoods after complaints from residents, and put out a public safety reminder that fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts.

Morgan Walton, a JP resident, said that her five year old hound mix rescue, Beau, has severe reactions to the fireworks. She said that while he is typically sound reactive, the daily fireworks particularly affect him.

“Fireworks are at the top of his hate list,” Walton said. “He can handle a couple, [but] after a few he starts to shake.” She said he will then hide and begin to whine, “gets sort of progressively worse the longer they go on.”

She said that Beau will hide in the bathroom and squeezes himself in between the bathtub and the wall. 

Walton said she hears the fireworks every evening, sometimes as early as 4:00 or 5:00 pm, but “definitely” by around 7:00 or 8:00pm, and they can last until “sometimes 12:00, 1:00, 2:00 in the morning, 3:00 in the morning.” She said there’s a firework every 20 to 30 minutes for hours at a time. 

Dr. Terri Bright, Director of Behavior Services at MSPCA-Angell, said that she has received “a lot of calls” in the behavior services department because of the fireworks.

She spoke to the Gazette about some tips pet owners can try with their animals who are affected by the noise. 

Before the fireworks even start, Bright recommended closing any windows in the house to dampen any outside noise, as well as putting on a white noise machine. If no white noise machine is available, she recommended searching Celestial Sounds on YouTube, which can be played on a phone or a laptop and will provide calming sounds for the animal.

She said there is also an app called “SimplyNoise” that can play white noise and help to mask sounds outside. 

She also suggested distracting the pet with food, but “if they are so upset that they won’t eat, then food is not going to work.” She said that if the animal is in a “heightened state of fear, there’s no way to really reassure most animals.”

Bright also suggested to make sure the animal cannot get out of the house, as some might react to the noise by trying to run away. 

“If your pet seems like they want to hide, make a hidey hole for them in a closet” or similar space,” she said. “If they’re really panicked, the only other choice is to call your vet and get sedation…and give it before the animal gets upset.”

Walton said that Beau has a Thunder Jacket, which can calm anxiety using slight pressure. He is also given a sedative.

“We try to distract him; we try to give him treats to make it a more positive experience,” she said. When the fireworks start, Beau wants to go for a ride in the car, which Walton said he usually hates, but he refuses to go to the bathroom in the yard while they are going off.  

Walton said that they end up taking him to the Arboretum to get a break. “Otherwise, he won’t go to the bathroom at all,” she said. 

Bright said that there is really no specific reason why some animals are more afraid of the fireworks than others, but she did say that animals that are storm-phobic are more likely to be afraid of fireworks.

“It sometimes has to do with the socialization of the animal,” she added, and whether or not they are exposed to loud noises as puppies or kittens. 

The sustained amount of fireworks going off in the neighborhood does not help the situation, she said. “The more it happens, the worse it gets. They tend to get more frightened.”

She said of those who are setting off fireworks, “I would appeal to everyone who thinks this is fun to consider the pets of friends they have. Many, many pets are suffering from this.” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *