On Independence Day, more dogs try to escape their leashes, owners and yards than on any other holiday, animal rescue groups warn.
The fireworks, parades and other loud celebratory noises freak out the pooches, whose hearing far surpasses humans' capabilities, experts said.
About a dozen calls come in on the Fourth from pet owners pleading for help on lost dogs, compared to about four cases for the second noisiest holiday, New Year's Eve, said Robert Misseri, president of the Smithtown-based Guardians of Rescue.
The group's volunteers are on call for lost dogs on July 4, abandoning their leisure time to make flyers, post them and search in cars with their two-way radios, Misseri said.
"Every moment that goes by, that dog is getting closer to getting hit by a car or something happening to him," he said. For most of the dogs, he said, "it's their first time out on the streets. Now they're spooked."
At Glen Cove's animal shelter, a full staff and volunteers work during the holiday to help calm the dogs, give advice to people who lost their pets and help find dogs.
Elevator music plays as usual over the speakers -- dogs can't take high notes -- but still, some howl, others whimper, shake or vomit when they hear the explosions, said Joan Phillips, co-founder of the Animal Lovers League, which runs Glen Cove's animal shelter. The cats often hide but appear to deal with the noise better than canines, she said.
"Most people realize dogs' hearing is acute, but they don't realize fireworks are painful, really painful," Phillips said. "If they're really scared, they'll go to extremes and they'll hurt themselves."
One year, a family celebrating at a neighbor's house left the dog tied up in the back yard, and when the fireworks went off, the dog tried to jump the fence, Phillips recalled. But the chain was too short to allow him to land on the ground on the other side of the fence, and he hung there and died, she said.
"We always advise people to keep their dogs and cats in on that day," Phillips said.
Here are some pet-friendly tips for the Fourth:
1. Keep pets inside the house instead of taking them to festivities.
2. Turn on the television, radio, air condition or other background noise to buffer fireworks sounds.
3. Distract pets with treats and play.
4. Ask the veterinarian in advance of the holiday for mild tranquilizer if needed.
5. Act normal with anxious pets.
6. Check on the pet in the house about every 20 minutes if you're outside barbecuing or relaxing.
7. Don't pull cats out of hiding places.
8. Make sure your pets have collars and ID tags.
9. Start searching and posting flyers right away for lost pets.
Sources: Animal Lovers League, Guardians of Rescue, Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals