Preparing pets for July 4 fireworks: How to help ease pressure on Central Texas animal shelters

Clear the Shelters

Phife gets festive for 4th of July. He is up for adoption at Austin Animal Center. (Austin Animal Center/Facebook)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas animal shelters, specifically Austin Animal Center, are already in a dire situation when it comes to pet intake far exceeding the number of adoptions they have.

“We’re hurting for space,” said Jennifer Olohan, the communications and media manager for the Austin Animal Center.

Chief Animal Services Officer Don Bland said in a June 25 city memo that staff may need to resort to euthanasia because the shelter is at capacity — something unthinkable for a no-kill shelter.

Recently, staff at the shelter are doubling up dogs in each suite. Olohan said in an interview Wednesday the shelter has taken in an average of 26 dogs per day for June. That’s not counting the number of cats or kittens.

The capacity complications are due to a number of things.

“Initially, when COVID hit we did have to close down briefly. We had to do virtual adoptions which didn’t work out super well, neither did curbside adoptions,” recalled Olohan. “People really want to come into the shelter to meet their future pets. We just weren’t able to accommodate that for so long.”

The shelter is operating lately at 100% capacity with no restrictions, but the challenge has changed.

“As people are going out and about more, to work, they’re picking up animals on front lawns and bringing them to the shelter,” she said.

It’s a common way people think they are helping the pet, especially around the July 4 holiday with fireworks scaring some pets and sometimes causing them to get away from their homes.

“We’re pleading with people that if you see a dog or a cat on a front lawn, instead of bringing it to the shelter first, knock on some doors around there and see if you can find the family because once they get here, [to the shelter] they have such a small chance of being reunited with their family and it’s so unfortunate. We really want to keep those animals in their homes.”

Jennifer Olohan, Austin Animal Center

With fireworks popping for July 4, making sure pet owners are prepared for the holiday is also a way to keep some unneeded pressure off shelters and the pets already there.

To help your pet with July 4 fireworks on the way

  • Make sure your pets are well exercised before sundown: Go for a long walk or run ahead of firework time so they’re tired and calm
  • Have them go to the restroom before sundown and try to keep them inside once it gets dark
  • If they need to be let out once night comes, put them on a leash and have their ID tag on them
  • Keep them indoors and keep them comfortable: Have them in a room with you with the TV or calming music playing
  • Thundershirts or compression shirts can help them feel comforted and safe
  • Check if your pet’s microchip is up to date with correct contact information for you

Austin Animal Center also offers free microchipping for your pets daily. All you have to do is show up during business hours, which are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If you find a pet away from their home, Olohan detailed an effective way to help the fur baby and help animal shelters.

“Using things like Nextdoor and social media is the absolute best way to get a pet reunited with their family,” Olohan explained.

And assisting with keeping pets out of shelters is the biggest way to help.

Little is available for adoption at the Austin Animal Center. (Austin Animal Center/Facebook)

“What we’re seeing is that we’ll have a really great adoption weekend — we had 117 adoptions one week, or one weekend and we had 105 animals come in,” Olohan said. “That’s a really important piece of the puzzle is to keep that intake down, to have the community help us keep animals out of the shelter so that when we do have these high adoption weekends, we actually make some progress.”

Adoptions are free at last report for the Austin Animal Center, and the pet comes with a microchip, age-appropriate vaccinations and heartworm medication. Fostering options are also available.

“It’s that person taking a chance on a dog who really needs it,” said Olohan. “They’ve all got their perfect person out there, we just have to find them.”

List: Where to adopt a pet in Central Texas

KXAN Digital Reporter Chelsea Moreno wants to hear your pet adoption story! She adores her adopted now two-year-old lab mix!! Share your fur baby’s story with her via email at chelsea.moreno@kxan.com. Pictures encouraged!!!

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