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August 14, 2020

Keeping pets safe on Fourth of July

WATSONVILLE—After months of being shuttered during the countywide response to Covid-19, Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter’s (SCCAS) Watsonville location has opened once again.

The reopening came a few days before the Fourth of July, a holiday known to cause lost pets and disrupted wildlife from excessive noise and lights from fireworks.

“It is incredibly scary for animals,” said Erika Anderson, program and development manager for SCCAS. “They have sensitive hearing. It’s understandable why they respond erratically to fireworks.”

Anderson said that it will help to have the Watsonville shelter at 580 Airport Blvd. open on the Fourth. People can report and turn in stray animals, or look for their own lost pets. The main shelter at 1001 Rodriguez St. in Santa Cruz will also be open.

“It’s a busy day for us,” Anderson said. “We get a lot of animals in the shelter. People don’t expect their pets to be that scared. They don’t expect them to run away. It’s very important to us to get these animals back to their families.”

SCCAS works with local 24-hour veterinary hospitals who often take in animals when it is closed. Technicians will check the pet for identification before sending them to the shelter. Anderson said this is why it is so important to get pets microchipped and vaccinated—two low-cost procedures that are currently available at SCCAS.

“Pet owners should look to us for that peace of mind,” she said.

But domesticated pets are not the only creatures who are affected by Fourth of July fireworks. The noises and flashes often disrupt native wildlife, from nocturnal birds to small burrowing species like weasels and chipmunks.

Native Animal Rescue (NAR), an organization headquartered in Live Oak, is also preparing for an influx this weekend. Rescuers will be on call to assist animals that have been displaced from their environments. 

“It’d be great if we could discourage fireworks altogether, or maybe just have one big show and that’s it,” said Amy Redfeather, a wildlife technician with NAR. “The amount that happens in this county… it literally kills wildlife. I personally don’t think it’s worth it.”

NAR staff will bring many of its most sensitive animals, such as owls and other small birds, inside the facility for the night.

However, precautions don’t always work. Redfeather recalls when an entire litter of wild rabbits, which she had raised and was preparing to release into the wild, all died after a neighbor set off a deafening mortar.

“One firework and all those lives were gone,” she said.

The organization is asking residents to call its hotline at 462-0726 if they see a wild animal in distress on the Fourth of July. While the facility will close at 8pm, staff will be checking messages and staying in contact via cell phone.

“If everyone can keep an eye out, that’d be great… If you see anything, let us know,” Redfeather said.

As for pets, Anderson said there are many ways to keep them safe and comforted. First, bring them inside. Find a cave-like environment for the animal to take refuge in. Playing background music or white noise, and giving them a toy that has treats inside can keep them calm and distracted. 

“Also, just stay with your pet,” she said. “Don’t leave them home alone. They like having us close. They will appreciate it.”

For information on Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter and to make appointments for adoptions or procedures visit scanimalshelter.org. To learn about Native Animal Rescue visit nativeanimalrescue.org.

Johanna Miller
Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business and agriculture.

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