4th of July and pets: Here's why animals fear fireworks and what you can do about it

The 4th of July is coming up, and it's a day that is marked by fireworks in many parts of the country.

For pets, however, the day could be one of fear and dread if their owners don't take proper measures.

Here's what to know about pets and fireworks, and what pet owners can do to help them.

Why do we celebrate 4th of July with fireworks?

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, many people attribute the use of fireworks on the 4th of July to a letter written by John Adams to his wife, Abigail.

The letter, according to the National Archives, mentions July 2, the date the Continental Congress approved a resolution that proposed outright independence from Great Britain. Independence Day as we know it today is the day when the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

However, the Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that by the time a group of 13 colonies, in what is now the eastern United States, declared their independence from Great Britain, pyrotechnics were already used commonly for celebrations, particularly to commemorate national triumphs and a return to peace.

"How fireworks came to be a central component of Independence Day celebrations in the United States was ultimately the result of hundreds of years of royal pageantry," read a portion of the article.

How much money do Americans spend on fireworks every year?

4th of July fireworks in New York City in 2023. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

4th of July fireworks in New York City in 2023. (Photo by Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

An article by WalletHub states Americans spent an estimated $2.7 billion on fireworks in 2023.

Figures from the American Pyrotechnics Association show that overall, Americans used 273.6 million lbs (approx. 124,102,872 kilograms) of fireworks in 2023. Of the 273.6 million lbs used, 246.5 million lbs of them were consumer fireworks.

Why are fireworks bad for pets and animals?

Lost pets at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (From Archive)

Lost pets at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (From Archive)

On their website, the Humane Society of the United States noted a number of negative impacts fireworks have on pets and other animals.


Pets are known to be more sensitive to loud noises, flashing lights, and strong smells, and that can be a problem on July 4 and other days when people are likely to set off fireworks.


Predatory birds like bald eagles see the sounds and lights from fireworks as threats, and may abandon their nests or habitats entirely.

Other birds may take off for prolonged periods of time, and use up energy reserves needed for survival.

"Fireworks have even frightened birds into flying so far out to sea that they did not have the energy to make the return flight," read a portion of the website. "Wild birds frightened by the noise of fireworks will also fly higher and for longer, which exposes them to the harmful cocktail of ingredients in fireworks like ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide that have caused cardiovascular and respiratory damage, and even death, in humans."

Other wildlife

The website states that fireworks casings, as well as heavy metals that are littered by fireworks, are often mistakenly eaten by wildlife, or fed to their young.

"Many of these materials are either indigestible and therefore choking hazards, or toxic to the animal, and pollutants from fireworks can be washed into waterways and contaminate drinking water for the animals that rely on it," read a portion of the website.

I have a pet. What should I do to keep them safe?

Officials with Maricopa County Animal Care and Control offer the following advice for pet owners:

  1. Keep pets indoors, and create a place to hide
  2. Only allow pets to go outside when absolutely necessary, and keep them on a leash
  3. Make sure fences are secure and provide an outside place to hide if the pet can't be kept indoors
  4. Make sure the pet is wearing current ID tags
  5. Get the pet microchipped, and keep them updated with the pet owner's current contact information
  6. Play calm music to help mask outside noise
  7. Distract the pet by offering their favorite toys, treats, and/or chews
  8. Talk to neighbors about moving fireworks or noisemakers away from houses

What are cities doing about fireworks?

In a FOX 10 Explains article published in July 2023, we noted some parts of the U.S. have opted to replace fireworks displays with alternate events due to a number of factors, one of which is wildfires.

According to figures provided by the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks cause an estimated 19,500 reported fires in the U.S. each year. The figures, however, did not make a distinction between professionally organized fireworks displays and fireworks set off by the average person.

Some cities have opted to replace fireworks displays with laser light shows. That happened in Flagstaff in 2022. While some other cities, like Salt Lake City, are putting on drone shows instead of fireworks.

Some places, like a state park in Rhode Island, are giving visitors a place to watch a fireworks display from a further distance, which organizers say can help reduce noise levels.