Scared dogs flee fireworks; some pet owners still searching

loberle@beaufortgazette.comJuly 10, 2014 

STAFF ILLUSTRATION

More pets go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year, according to Beaufort County Animal Control director Tallulah Trice.

This year was no exception.

Animal control received more than 60 calls this week from owners looking for pets that panicked and ran away after hearing fireworks.

Beaufort resident Kelli Bright left her three dogs -- Tiny, Jack and Shadow -- in her fenced-in backyard at about 9 p.m. July 4 while she and her family went out to celebrate the holiday.

She returned around midnight to find that Tiny, a 50-pound Chihuahua mix, had broken through the fence. Shadow followed, while Jack, a 30-pound mixed-breed, decided to stay put on the back porch.

Like many dogs, Tiny and Shadow are afraid of loud noises. Trice said the intensity and duration of fireworks can cause dogs great anxiety.

"They tend to run away from it as far as they can," Trice said.

Tiny was found the next morning by a neighbor, but Shadow -- a 9-year-old black Labrador retriever -- was nowhere to be found.

Animal control received 10 dogs that Trice said probably ran away during fireworks over the holiday. Half of those have since been reunited with their owners.

Franny Gerthoffer, director of the Hilton Head Humane Association, said three dogs were brought to her shelter July 5, likely fireworks runaways. One has been reunited with its owner.

On Saturday, Bright contacted animal control and local humane societies about Shadow, with no luck.

She and her family searched the area, even looking for the dog's body on the side of the road, fearful he had been hit by a car.

On Monday, neighbors of Bright's called animal control, saying they found a black Lab in a marsh behind their home.

"We definitely got lucky that he found a nice home to hang out at," Bright said.

She doesn't think Shadow will be leaving again anytime soon. He has rarely come out from under the boat shed, where he sleeps since returning home.

"He was obviously pretty scared when he was out," Bright said. "I think I'll just spend the next Fourth of July at home."

Although the week following July 4 was the busiest of the year for the Humane Association, Gerthoffer said the number of incoming calls about lost pets and animals brought to the shelter was down from last year. She did not have exact figures available.

She attributed the drop to the association's efforts to educate pet owners.

"This year we campaigned to raise awareness about keeping dogs safe during fireworks, and it seems like people were more careful," Gerthoffer said.

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

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