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What to do if your dog runs away

What to do if your dog runs away

What to do if your dog runs away

Houston shelters are asking the public to keep their pets inside during Fourth of July fireworks to prevent them from running away after getting scared.

Houston shelters are asking the public to keep their pets inside during Fourth of July fireworks to prevent them from running away after getting scared.

Jason Fochtman/Staff Photographer

Houston animal shelters are urging residents to make sure their pets have tags and microchips before the Fourth of July in case fireworks cause their frightened dog or cat to run away.

Corey Stottlemyer, assistant director of the BARC shelter, said keeping animals indoors is effective in preventing frightened pets from running away. If pets do get lost, shelter officials said microchips are an efficient way to help owners find their pets.

“I know people say they know their pets, but I really encourage them to be cautious because their animal is likely to act differently when they’re stressed and especially if they’re around a fireworks show,” Stottlemyer said.

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Here’s what you need to know about pet care during the Fourth of July and what to do if they run away.

Register and microchip your pets before the 4th of July

Houston SPCA officials said 300 pets annually, including during the holidays, have been reunited with their owners thanks to microchips.

“We scan every pet that comes in. If we find that information on the owner, we can return the pet to them right away,” said Corey Steele, director of Harris County Pets’ veterinary public health division. “The same goes for our animal control officers who are out on the streets while they’re responding to calls and they see a dog out on the loose, they can scan it.”

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In 2022, the City of Houston passed an ordinance requiring city pets to be microchipped. New pet owners must register their pets with the city and prove that the animals have been vaccinated against rabies. Residents can face a fine of between $100 and $500 for not having an active registration or for owning a pet that does not have a microchip.

Current pet owners should make sure the information on their pet’s microchips and tags is up to date, including phone numbers, according to a news release from the SPCA.

How to keep a pet calm during fireworks

Steele recommends using a carrier, kennel or crate to make pets feel more confined and comfortable indoors during fireworks.

Stottlemyer said placing a blanket over carriers can help limit pets’ sense of exposure to flashing lights and loud noises from fireworks. She added that making sure doors are closed will help prevent pets from trying to escape.

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SPCA officials recommend turning on the television or radio at a low volume to help drown out the noise of fireworks. Try to tire out pets before the Fourth of July festivities by having them play actively during the day.

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What precautions should you take when taking a pet outside during fireworks?

If a pet owner plans to take his or her pet outside during fireworks or at an event involving fireworks, he or she should use a harness or leash that won’t break or slip, Stottlemyer said.

A pet should have fresh drinking water and shade. Owners should make sure pets don’t eat foods that could harm them, such as chicken bones and corn cobs, which could lead to complications requiring surgery. Additionally, chocolate, avocado and onions are toxic to pets, according to the Houston SPCA. Keep pets away when lighting campfires, sparklers and fireworks.

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How to find a lost pet in Houston

Stottlemyer said when pets do get lost, the shelter has resources in place, including kennel software that integrates with 24PetConnect and social media pages where people post information about lost pets. If a pet runs away, the owner can search for it, see if anyone has registered it on 24PetConnect, check lost pet social media pages and BARC’s Facebook page and visit the shelter to see if they have the pet.

“The best way to come in person is to physically see if that animal in our kennel is your pet,” Stottlemyer said.

Harris County Pets posts photos of lost pets on its website, countypets.com. Steele said there are other websites that can help people in advance in case their pets are lost, including Petco Love Lost. An owner can register their pet with a photo so they can connect to a person in case local shelters have the pet.

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Pet owners can also meet their pets at the Houston SPCA online through Nextdoor and the Houston SPCA Found Animals page.