Fireworks often bring fear and harm to pets and wildlife. It’s time to think beyond tradition and find more responsible and compassionate ways to celebrate.

For 15 straight years, our old dog Clark spent the Fourth of July in our walk-in shower. He seemed to believe a windowless shower in a windowless bathroom offered his best chance of surviving the shrieking terror that was raining down from the night sky outside.

Did he think the fireworks, with their window-rattling booms, were the work of some cosmic predator big enough to eat him whole? Did he think they were gunshots or claps of thunder spreading out from inexplicable lightning bolts tearing open the sky above our house?

There’s no way to know what he was thinking, but every single year that rangy, 75-pound, country-born yard dog spent the Fourth of July in our shower, trembling, drooling and whimpering in terror.

Clark was lucky. We have friends whose terrified dog spent one Fourth of July fruitlessly trying to outrun the explosions. The next day a good Samaritan found him lying on a hot sidewalk miles away, close to death. Other friends came home from watching the fireworks to discover that their dog had bolted in terror from their fenced backyard and been killed by a car.

And those were all companion animals, the ones whose terror is clear to us. We have no real way of knowing how many wild animals suffer because the patterns of their lives are disrupted with no warning every year on a night in early July. People shooting bottle rockets in the backyard might not see the sleeping songbirds, startled from their safe roosts, exploding into a darkness they did not evolve to navigate — crashing into buildings or depleting crucial energy reserves. People firing Roman candles into the sky above the ocean may have no idea that the explosions can cause seabirds to abandon their nests or frighten nesting shorebirds to death. Then there’s the wildlife driven into roads — deer and foxes, opossums and skunks, coyotes and raccoons. Any nocturnal creature in a blind panic can find itself staring into oncoming headlights, unsure whether the greater danger lies in the road or in the sky or in the neighbourhood yards surrounding them.

Birds may abandon their nests, leaving eggs and chicks vulnerable to predators. Nocturnal animals that depend on darkness for hunting or navigation are thrown into chaos by the sudden illumination, potentially impacting their survival and ability to find food.

One of the most tragic consequences of fireworks is the harm they can cause to birds. Many species, particularly migratory birds, can become disoriented by fireworks and collide with buildings and other structures. The resulting injuries and fatalities are a significant concern for conservationists.

Fireworks also pose a threat to aquatic life, as they can litter water bodies with hazardous debris and chemicals. The loud noises can disrupt underwater habitats, leading to confusion and stress among aquatic creatures. Some chemicals used in fireworks, such as heavy metals and perchlorates, can contaminate water sources, posing serious risks to aquatic ecosystems.

And all that’s on top of the dangers posed by fireworks debris, which can be toxic if ingested, or the risk of setting off a wildfire in parched summertime vegetation. Little wonder, then, that fireworks are banned in all national wildlife refuges, national forests and national parks.

Animals aren’t the only ones that suffer on the Fourth of July. We live in a country completely saturated with guns, and far too many of them are fired at strangers at public events. These days, many human beings have a similar panicked reaction to the sound of fireworks, mistaking it for gunfire.

It would be so easy to find a new way to celebrate the founding of a nation. So easy, at the very least, to limit fireworks to public celebrations meant to bring communities together. When those communities use low-noise fireworks, as well, they limit the stress on people and animals, and they mitigate some of the dangers to local wildlife. However, such measures wouldn’t address the pollution caused by fireworks. On average, Fourth of July displays account for the 42 percent more pollutants found in the air on July 4 and 5 than on a typical day.

Surely we can give up fireworks. Of all the little pleasures that give life meaning and joy, surely fireworks don’t come close to the top of the list, and it costs us nothing to give them up. This is one case in which doing the right thing requires no significant sacrifice, one case in which doing the right thing has an immediate, noticeable, undeniably positive effect on a suffering world.

Compiled from following sources: https://www.nytimes.com | https://completepetfood.co.za

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