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What to do if your pet gets lost on 4th of July

What to do if your pet gets lost on 4th of July

Credit: KING

by Susan Wyatt


Posted on June 30, 2012 at 4:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 3 at 6:59 PM

More runaway and lost pets end up in animal shelters over the 4th of July holiday than any other time of year, as pets become frightened and panic from the noise and excitement of fireworks

Pet Amber Alert offers 4 simple tips on how to keep pets safe:

1) Stay inside: Try to keep your pet indoors at all times during holiday celebrations. Ideally, someone stays home with your pet. Also keep your dog leashed when going out for walks.

2) Make them feel safe: Comfort your pets with petting, hugging, talking to them in a soothing voice, providing a treat and staying nearby if possible. Make sure they can access their crate or “safe place.” Also ask your veterinarian or local pet retailer about natural calming products, anxiety wraps and other items that can help.

3) Avoid the noise. Try to drown out the fireworks sounds as much as possible by closing windows, playing music or turning on the TV.

4) Act normal! Your pet takes cues from your and your family’s actions. It will help if you go about your normal routine as much as possible, talking and playing with your pet as usual.

But if the worst does happen, and your pet runs away, Missing Pet Partnership offers the following advice:

Panicked Cats

Cats are very different from dogs when panicked. They are territorial and when panicked they immediately look to hide. Hiding in silence is their only protective measure from predators. While cats may bolt in fear and end up "displaced" in an unfamiliar area (like a few houses down where they've never been before), they will often be hidden within their own territory. We've seen cases in disasters like tornados or hurricanes where the house / building was destroyed and yet the cat survived and stayed concealed for days, sometimes weeks! In one case following 4th of July fireworks a cat was found inside a neighbor’s bedroom closet (apparently he bolted into their house through an open door). We’ve also seen cases after fireworks where a cat, panicked due to the sudden booming noises, bolted into a neighbor’s garage or was found hiding under a neighbor’s deck for 4 to 5 days. Panicked cats hide in silence, often within a short distance of their normal territory (within a 5-house radius of their home) so just because you don't see or hear your cat DOES NOT mean he or she is not right there, hiding in fear from the loud noises that occurred (fireworks, crashing of items in an earthquake, etc.) If you have humane traps, use them to attempt to capture your cat. If not, place small amounts of cat food (and water) and hopefully you'll eventually be able to determine where the cat is hiding. See the MPP Displaced Cat page for more details.

Panicked Dogs

When experiencing the terror of an earthquake or loud fireworks, some dogs may look for a hiding place so make certain to search in potential hiding places like under a vehicle or inside a garage or open building. Dogs can also become trapped in rubble in an earthquake but usually that is if the building collapse on them. If they were fenced or were able to escape from a building, they will most likely run and may be found a distance from home. Many dogs will be so terrified from the sound of fireworks or an earthquake that they will not even come to their owners! While some dogs will ultimately calm down and then approach people, other dogs will continue to run from everyone. In many cases, people have tried to call the dog as they looked directly at the dog and walked towards it, an action that is dominate and frightening to a dog that is in the "fight or flight" mode.

Do NOT Call a Panicked Dog!

MPP says one of the worst things that you can do is CALL a stray dog or panicked dog! That's because if too many people have already tried to capture the dog, calling him becomes a "trigger" that can cause him to automatically take off in fear when anyone, including his owner, calls him. Instead, make some type of other noise like clearing your throat or fake a sneeze to alert the dog to your presence. Then look away, which is a submissive gesture. You can even fake like you're eating food on the ground, and we suggest that you have a baggie of smelly treats like pieces of hotdog or liver treats. Sit down on the ground, or even lay flat on your back and pat your chest. Do anything other than staring straight at your dog while walking towards him! One of our volunteers captured a tiny terrier that ran from her when she called him but he came wiggling up to her once she laid flat on her back and patted her chest. Another of our volunteers captured a panicked dog by getting out of the car with a Frisbee and started tossed it back and forth with the dog owner as they both just ignored the dog. WHEN YOU FIXATE ALL OF YOUR ATTENTION ON YOUR DOG AND THAT DOG IS IN A "FIGHT OR FLIGHT" MODE, HE WILL BECOME EVEN MORE TERRIFIED THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO CATCH HIM! So work to get his attention and then do something with food as you sit or lay down flat and work to attract him to come to you.

You should also know that when dogs are in a full fight or flight mode and their adrenaline is flowing, the olfactory section of their brain closes down. That's why sometimes when you try to feed a hotdog to a panicked dog it won't eat it. So sometimes the food will work, sometimes it won't. It depends on the dog and what level of panic he is in. Also, some dogs will immediately recognize their owner by their scent but other dogs won't. Read Kat Albrecht's blog post about why you should NEVER call a panicked dog.

For more tips and information about missing pets, visit the Missing Pet Partnerships' website and Kat Albrecht's blog

Missing Pet Partnership is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reuniting families with their pets.


If your pet has been microchipped, you have a very good chance of being reunited. Call your veterinarian and/or the microchip company right away to make sure the microchip's contact information is up-to-date.

Contact the animal welfare agency that handles strays for the area where you live and/or where your pet was lost. Below is a list of animal welfare agencies.

Seattle Animal Control: (206) 386-7387

King County Regional Animal Services, Kent: (206) 296-7387
All of King County except: Seattle, Des Moines, Federal Way, Medina, Normandy Park, Renton, Shoreline, and Lake Forest Park.

Renton Animal Control: (425) 430-7550

Medina Animal Control: (425) 454-1332

PAWS: (425)787-2500
Bothell, Brier, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Mukilteo, Shoreline, Woodinville, and unincorporated Snohomish County.

Everett Animal Control: (425) 257-6000
Darrington, Gold Bar, Index, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Monroe, Snohomish, Stanwood, Tulalip, and unincorporated Snohomish County.

Edmonds Animal Control: (425) 775-4545

Des Moines Animal Control: (206) 870-6549 

Normandy Park Animal Control Services: (206) 248-7600

Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County: (253) 383-2733
Federal Way, Tacoma, and unincorporated Pierce County

Seattle Humane Society: (425) 641-0080