‘They can’t control their fear’; July 4 fireworks displays can be life-threatening for livestock and pets

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Goats and sheep trot together on a farm Wednesday in Hawaiian Paradise Park. Many goats and sheep at the farm have broken bones while running back and forth in the dark during fireworks displays at neighboring residences for the July 4 holiday.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald A shopper browses the fireworks for sale Thursday at Sack N Save in downtown Hilo.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Mufasa the sheep looks forward while walking around a farm in Hawaiian Paradise Park on Wednesday.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim announced June 9 that the county’s usual Fourth of July activities would be canceled because of concerns with the potential spread of COVID-19. But without a large, countywide fireworks show, some residents are concerned residential fireworks shows will be more prominent this year and wreak havoc on pets and livestock.

Goats and sheep on a farm in Hawaiian Paradise Park have been terrified by fireworks shot off during Fourth of July festivities every year at neighboring houses. Tim and Chris, who did not provide their last name for privacy concerns, have lived in HPP for 16 years and have become increasingly frustrated with the consistent problem with fireworks and gunshots.

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“Livestock and explosions do not mix,” Tim said. “Every year, fireworks have caused my animals to break their legs and ankles, some have suffered miscarriages and some have died.”

When fireworks are fired off, the loud noise causes the goats and sheep to run back and forth in the dark on the farm. This has resulted in many injuries, the most common being broken ankles, as well as stress-induced death.

“We have had five animals die while passing miscarriages that were prompted by these loud skyrockets,” Tim said. “When animals are terrified and running for hours on end, the physical strain causes these miscarriages.”

It is unlawful to buy, sell, possess or set off any aerial luminary device such as sky lanterns and skyrockets. A permit is required for other firecrackers, but not required for paperless firecrackers, including those sold at drug and grocery stores.

“I’ve tried to get police to stop these illegal fireworks countless times and I just don’t know what to do anymore,” Tim said.

Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kurtistown, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the well-being of Hawaii’s abandoned, abused or otherwise neglected animals, is preparing to safeguard several dogs that experience intense anxiety during fireworks displays.

“Some dogs become so scared of the sound that they will gnaw through cage wire, which damages their jaw and other parts of their body,” said Rainbow Friends founder Mary Rose Krijgsman. “I’ve seen dogs attempt to attack other animals because they are full of anxiety and don’t know what to do with it.”

After experiencing loud holidays at the sanctuary, Krijgsman and her crew began constructing wooden cages they fill with cushions to help alleviate the stress.

“Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve are a time of huge stress for us to just to keep animals alive,” Krijgsman said. “Some animals are left with constant anxiety stemming from the loud fireworks.”

Krijgsman and her staff are preparing wooden cages for five dogs that displayed anxiety when guns go off from hunters near the sanctuary.

“We want to provide a safe environment for the animals here and I will never understand why we need to celebrate holidays with such loud equipment,” Krijgsman said. “There is 200,000 of us, but millions of cats and dogs.”

The Hawaii Island Humane Society also is preparing animals and its shelters for a loud weekend ahead.

“Residential fireworks are hard to plan for because they aren’t controlled and go off randomly all over the area,” said HIHS Community Programs Director Lauren Nickerson. “We have already heard them going off the past few days.”

Although fireworks for the Fourth of July are not as prominent as during the New Year holiday, the traditions have caused dogs and cats to run away from home in fear from the loud noise.

“This is definitely the time to comfort your pets because they can’t control their fear,” Nickerson said. “It’s good to let them cope with the noise in a natural way, so if they want to cuddle with you or hide, try to let them.”

Nickerson advises pet owners to make sure their animals have collars or microchips in case they do run away.

The humane society also asked the community for more foster volunteers to help make room for the influx of lost dogs that are taken in during the July 4 holiday.

“By welcoming a shelter dog into your home at this time, you will free up lifesaving shelter space in our shelters and allow us to help even more animals in need and have space to house lost or stray pets while they wait to be reunited with their families,” Nickerson said in a press release.

A commitment of fostering a pet for 10 days gives HIHS time to help any incoming dogs that are frightened by the loud, booming noise of fireworks.

The foster team will match families with the best dog since HIHS is unable to take requests for specific pets at this time.

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Volunteers can visit http://hihs.as.me/4thofjuly online to schedule a time to pick up foster dogs. All shelter locations in Keaau, Waimea and Kona will be open for pick up on Saturday, July 4.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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