Love your country, love your dog: Keep pets safe over July Fourth

Steph McCombie takes a selfie of her and her dog, in Gibsons, British Columbia, Canada, for a challenge to raise money and awareness about pet safety during the Fourth of July holiday.

LOS ANGELES — To us, fireworks are the sparkling embodiment of July Fourth. But to dogs, they truly are bombs bursting in air.

The pops and explosions, raucous block parties and other loud noises during holiday festivities can scare dogs into leaping over or digging under fences to escape the thunderous blasts, leading them to get lost or injured.

More pets go missing over the Fourth of July weekend than any other time of year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many seasoned animal lovers know to keep their dogs inside, but many pets are still running away or getting killed by cars as they bolt blindly from the noise.

Luckily, social media is helping find increasing numbers of animals or drawing attention to their plight.

The hashtag #Lost4Dogs aims to raise awareness about lost pets with a selfie challenge. It turns the idea of going missing onto people, urging them to post photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter wearing signs that say they should be returned to the pets pictured with them. Then, they would challenge others to post a selfie or donate to the American Humane Association, best known for approving animal safety on TV and movie sets.

Whistle Labs Inc., a San Francisco-based maker of pet health and safety devices, is helping lead the campaign, said company co-founder and CEO Ben Jacobs.

Apps and online programs also actually locate lost dogs, ranging from GPS-enabled collars, which allow owners to track pets from their phones or computers, to apps such as Finding Rover, which uses facial recognition software to match photos of lost dogs to those in shelters.

The populations of many shelters will increase 30 percent over the holiday weekend, according to the animal safety group Found Animals.

To keep pets safe, Los Angeles trainer David Wright and other experts offer some dos and don’ts:

Get collar IDs and microchips.

Use a crate or keep animals in a room where they can’t flee.

Crank up music or the television to mask the sound of fireworks.

Provide water and food: Fear makes dogs pant, and unfamiliar food makes them anxious.

Distract with chewable toys or treats.

Take a pooch to see fireworks unless it’s a noise-trained police or guide dog.

Leave them outside, where they jump or dig to escape the yard.

Approach dogs who look scared because they can attack.