thundershirt dogNext week, fireworks will illuminate the skies — and ring in the sound — of Fourth of July celebrations. As we enjoy these holiday festivities, it’s important to remember that this can be a traumatic time for our critters. Loud noises can frighten animals, causing them to panic and even run away from home. In fact, animal shelters across the country report an increased number of lost animal companions after fireworks displays, and Marin County is no exception.

“Every year, dogs and cats bolt from their yards or homes in fear during the holiday festivities,” says Marin Humane shelter services director, Keri Fennell. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday for you and your pet. Just follow these simple guidelines.


  • Keep your pets indoors during fireworks displays. A quiet, sheltered area is best. Close windows and curtains and turn on the TV or radio to help drown out some of the noise. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so be sure to remove any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful if chewed. Some animals even feel more comfortable in the bathroom, as the small space will buffer the sound better.
  • Make sure your fur buddies are microchipped and wearing current identification and tags so that if they do become lost, you can be reunited with them quickly. Keep current photos of your pets handy — and make sure the photos show any unique markings.


  • Never take your dog to a fireworks display. It’s usually hot. There are always large crowds. And dogs really don’t enjoy it.
  • Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a tether. Pets that normally wouldn’t try to leave the yard may panic and try to escape. Dogs may become entangled in their tethers or hang themselves if they try to leap over a fence. To avoid injury, keep your pets indoors.

Other ways to help
If you know that your pet is seriously distressed by the sounds of fireworks, consult your veterinarian. She may recommend a fast-acting anti-anxiety medication. The key is to give the medications before the noise starts — they are less effective if you wait until the dog is already stressed. You may also need to give an additional dose later, depending on the duration of the noise.

Some dogs respond well to the use of a dog anxiety vest sometimes known as a thunder shirt. It applies gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety, fear and over-excitement, and can be particularly useful during fireworks.

And if despite your best efforts, your pet does become lost, don’t panic. Check inside garages, yards, storage sheds, brments, closets, under cars and in the shrubbery at your home and throughout the neighborhood. Post a notice on Nextdoor, Facebook and, of course, contact Marin Humane so we can help you. Each year, we receive several lost dogs during July Fourth celebrations. Go to and check our lost pets section, come to the shelter to check the kennels, fill out a lost pet report and look over the “found” reports. You can also download lost animal flyers from our website and check our 24-hour lost animal hotline at 415-883-4621.

Have a great time this Fourth of July, and keep your pets safe and sound.