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Fireworks a danger to humans and pets

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 12:00 p.m. CDT

With the Fourth of July approaching, fireworks safety is an important issue for humans and dogs alike.

“We do have lost animals that take off every Fourth of July because they are afraid of fireworks and loud noises,” said Roberta Shoaf, executive director of the DeKalb County Animal Welfare Shelter in Genoa.

“We get more calls about missing dogs than we have for found dogs,” Shoaf added. She said the shelter gets reports of six to eight dogs each year who got disoriented and frightened by fireworks, and that dogs sometimes bite strangers out of fear or run away blindly to escape the noise. 

“Every time one goes off that’s an additional trigger for the fear,” Shoaf said, noting that a leash can caught on something and pose an even bigger risk to the dog.

“A dog on a leash can go as far as strangling itself to get away from something it’s afraid of,” she said.

Shoaf recommends leaving dogs at home whenever fireworks are being displayed nearby, pulling blinds or curtains to reduce the flashes that the dogs see, and having “white noise” such as music playing in the home to diffuse the intensity of the fireworks’ report.

Consumer fireworks pose a risk to human safety as well. The Office of the State Fire Marshal recently added sky lanterns to its list of prohibited consumer fireworks due to the fire and safety hazards they present. However, even fireworks that are still legal in Illinois can be dangerous.

“There are some legal fireworks out there, but anything that you have to light with a match has a hazard to it,” said Pete Polarek, chief of the Sycamore Fire Department. “There are a lot of documented cases of injury from sparklers.”

In 2011, U.S. emergency rooms treated about 9,600 fireworks-related injuries, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Polarek said that even innocent-looking sparklers can burn at 1,800 degrees and cause serious burns, especially in children. About 1,100 sparkler-related injuries were treated in hospitals in 2011.

“Leave fireworks to the professionals,” Polarek said. “Go somewhere where they have a professional display and enjoy that aspect of it. You have folks who are trained and licensed to use that equipment.”

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