a collage of a frightened dog with fireworks
Collage by Pat Ormsby for the HSUS

It's no secret that most pets hate fireworks, and shelter pets are no exception. Prior to July Fourth this year, Maricopa County (Arizona) Animal Care and Control staffers brainstormed ways to alleviate their animals’ stress during the pop-boom-sizzle of community fireworks displays.

“Sometimes reading to them helps, sometimes playing music, sometimes just sitting there, and so we thought, ‘Well, why not solicit the public’s help?’” says public information officer Jose Santiago, who posted a video request on Facebook five days before the holiday. “We had no idea what kind of response we were going to get, but within two to three days, we had more than 30,000 views on Facebook, and we started saying, ‘This is going to be something.’”

Between the shelter’s two locations in the Phoenix area, about 200 people showed up on the holiday to read, sing and sit with the dogs and cats.

“We had whole families sitting on blankets [with] their hands pressed against the kennels, and petting the dogs gently through the kennels, and it really, truly worked. There were dogs literally falling asleep with their faces pressed up against the hands of the people [next to] the kennel,” he says. Many people enjoyed the experience so much they signed up as shelter volunteers, he adds, and others couldn’t wait to do it again. “We had people that showed up the next day and said, ‘I really felt like I bonded with my dog and I want to see about adopting them.’”

Santiago says they’ll repeat the strategy on New Year’s Eve, but they won’t be adding streamers or party hats. “We wouldn’t do anything that would defeat the purpose of keeping the dogs calm,” he says with a laugh.

200 volunteers helped keep shelter pets calm.

About the Author

Animal Sheltering is for everyone who cares about the animals in their community—from shelter directors and animal care and control officers to kennel staff, volunteers, and private individuals working as activists, breed rescuers, wildlife rehabbers, veterinarians and more.

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