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Shelters brace for surge of lost pets freaked out by fireworks

Animal welfare advocates fear already-busy shelters may be overwhelmed by the surge of runaway pets.

WALDORF, Md. — Animal welfare advocates are predicting the worst week of the year for runaway pets landing in the area's animal shelters.

Fear of fireworks is the cause of the surge, animal welfare workers say.  But this year, there’s more urgency to the warning as animal shelters across the country report they are already overwhelmed.

“More animals get taken in by shelters on the fifth of July than any other day of the year," said Cindy Sharply, Executive Director of Last Chance Animal Rescue in Maryland.

Sharply says 2022 is presenting additional challenges and risks.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals national database, there is an ongoing surge of pets being surrendered to animal shelters nationwide.

More than 43,000 pets were surrendered in May from less than 34,000 in February, according to the database.

It’s a bad time for pets to run away due to fireworks anxiety Sharpley warns.

“Keep your animals inside keep them on the leash. Don't let them run away. They'll be scared and they're gonna run. It happens every year.  Dogs jump through windows, dogs run out, it's awful," Sharpley said.

"If you could just keep your animals inside on Fourth of July. Keep them safe so the shelter won't have to deal with another 20 animals that are lost," she pleaded.

Maryland pet owner Erin Hullinger says her dog Pilot is terrified of fireworks.

She recalled Pilot's reaction when he was first adopted.

"That first Fourth of July was so, so, sad and we ended up spending the whole night like hugging him on the couch while he cried," Hullinger said.

About 30% of dogs are stuck with anxiety when exposed to fireworks according to a recent European study. Like many pet owners, Hulligner turned to snug body wrappings to calm Pilot.

"We actually found a bunch of Ace bandages and wrapped him in that with a little bow on his back.  It helps a lot," she said.

Brands like Thundershirt claim effectiveness in at least 80% of anxious dogs, according to a user survey.

A study conducted by animal behavior expert Temple Grandin documented positive effects.

Recommendations from the American Kennel Club include walking your dog before fireworks and being sure they have ID on them in case they break loose.

WATCH NEXT: What fireworks are allowed in Maryland?

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