Ah, the 4th of July…when Americans across the country fire up barbecue grills and all manner of explosives to celebrate our nation’s independence. But wait. In Los Angeles, the explosives – of all kinds (yes, even sparklers) – are illegal. They’re also less and less appreciated by neighbors for their noise and, especially, the effects they have on beloved pets, who can suffer terrible or even catastrophic anxiety during the bombastic holiday celebrations.
This year, both the Los Angeles Police Department and the LA Department of Animal Services, as well as thousands of neighbors posting on social media such as NextDoor.com, across the city, are begging Angelenos to ditch the home-based, illegal fireworks and to stick to legal, professional fireworks displays. Here are some of the key messages:
What the Law Says
According to a message sent to constituents by Los Angeles City Council Member Mitch O’Farrell:
“Enforced by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department, the City’s Municipal Code (section 57.5608.1.2) makes it a misdemeanor to use, sell, or discharge fireworks in the City of Los Angeles. This misdemeanor is punishable by a fine ranging from $500 to $1000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both.”
What LAPD Says
Although LAPD always tries to enforce the the anti-fireworks law to the extend that it is able, the police this year seem to be making an extra push for fireworks safety and enforcement. The flier below has been distributed to many neighborhood groups and, in some areas, has even been placed on car windows up and down local streets.
What the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services Says
One of the most compelling reasons to avoid illegal fireworks is our pets. While we humans may be irritated by the “bombs bursting in air” for a few hours or days, our beloved animal companions simply cannot understand the role those scary noises play in our celebrations. Reactions can range from mild to severe anxiety, and even panicked flight from homes or yards when the concussions get too close for comfort.
In fact, the LA Department of Animal Services faces its fullest shelters of the year in the day or two after July 4, when many of those lost and scared animals are picked up by citizens and department staff. And while the Department tries as hard as it can to reunite lost pets with their owners, all too often they cannot.
Here are some tips from the Department of Animal Services to make sure your pets stay safe…and to help them come home if they do flee during the holiday period:
Keep your pets indoors.
The 4th of July and the days following are the busiest at LA Animal Services Centers. Many pets escape their homes because they are afraid of loud sounds from fireworks. The best way to keep your pets safe is to make sure they stay indoors and in an enclosed room if possible. If you do allow your pet outside, be sure that your gates or fence are secure or that your pet stays on a leash.
Create a calming environment.
If you’re having guests over or a party, try creating a safe place in your home where your pet can have some quiet space away from your company such as a room that’s off-limits or a familiar crate with some of their favorite toys or a comforting blanket. Play soothing music and keep the room as quiet as possible by closing doors, windows and blinds. While celebrating, it is easy to forget that loud noises can scare your four-legged friend.
Stay away from fireworks.
Even if your pet does not seem obviously upset by fireworks, they can still cause harm to pets. Fireworks are illegal in the City of Los Angeles. You can prevent potential burns, injuries, or possible ingestion by keeping all pets out of the vicinity of fireworks and asking friends and neighbors to avoid using them.
Start looking for your lost pet right away.
Go to the Animal Services Center nearest to where you last saw your animal. Give them a photo or specific information about what your pet looks like, if they are microchipped and if they are wearing a license or tag. You may also search the LA Animal Services lost pet database at www.laanimalservices.com/about-animals/lost-pet/.
Also, just in case your pet does escape, please make sure their ID tags are in place and up to date.
Meanwhile, in addition to anxiety and flight, there are health risks for pets who may chew or eat fireworks. Again, from Animal Services:
“When unused or used fireworks are ingested, they are poisonous to pets. Fireworks contain hazardous chemicals such as potassium nitrate, which is an oxidizing agent. They can also contain charcoal or sulfur and coloring agents, which are potentially dangerous heavy metals. When ingested, pets can develop gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, a painful abdomen and bloody diarrhea.
In some cases, it can get worse.
The severity of pet health issues resulting from ingestion will depend on the type of fireworks and the amount that was ingested. Pets ingesting large amounts can suffer tremors or seizures, along with acute kidney failure, bone marrow changes, shallow breathing and jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin.
If your pet experiences any of these symptoms, please take them immediately to your veterinarian to have them checked. Make sure to inspect your yard for used fireworks, and dispose of their remains and clean up any soot or ash that may be left. Make sure to keep an eye on what you pet is eating, and supervise them if they go outside.”
And, finally, if you’d really like to help our local pets, please consider adopting or even fostering an animal from a city shelter during the holiday weekend. Every year, Animal Services holds a big foster/adoption event during this period, to help make room in the shelters for the many incoming lost and terrified animals during the big, scary weekend. Fostering for even a few days can free up space for new animals needing a bed while waiting to be reuinted with their families.
For more information on adoption or holiday fostering, see https://4daysforlife.com/ or https://www.laanimalservices.com/foster-or-adopt-now-shelters-will-fill-and-overflow-due-to-fireworks/
What the Southern California Air Quality Management District Says
Another potentially harmful result of all those illegal fireworks is air pollution. According to the Southern California Air Quality Management District:
“Air quality is likely to reach unhealthful levels in areas throughout the South Coast Air Basin and in the Coachella Valley on July 4th through July 5th. Fireworks are known to emit high levels of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) as well as metal air pollutants, all of which can contribute to negative health effects. From the evening of Thursday, July 4th through the morning of Friday, July 5th, the Air Quality Index may reach the Very Unhealthy air quality category or higher, due to fireworks related to Independence Day celebrations. The use of personal “backyard” fireworks also contributes to this air pollution and can further increase how much air pollution a person is breathing.
Fine particulate matter levels on July 4th and July 5th are typically among the worst (highest) days of the year in the South Coast Air Basin. The smoke and combustion products from fireworks add to the fine particles already present in the Basin that are primarily caused by motor vehicles, as well as fugitive dust and industrial emissions.
Areas of direct impacts and unhealthful air quality may include portions of:
Los Angeles County: Central Los Angeles (Area 1), Northwest Coastal LA County (Area 2), Southwest Coastal LA County (Area 3), South Coastal LA (Area 4), Southeast LA County (Area 5), West San Fernando Valley (Area 6), East San Fernando Valley (Area 7), West San Gabriel Valley (Area 8), East San Bernardino Valley (Area 9), Pomona-Walnut Valley (Area 10), South San Gabriel Valley (Area 11), South Central Los Angeles County (Area 12), Santa Clarita Valley (Area 13), San Gabriel Mountains (Area 15)”
Where to See Legal, Professional Fireworks
So if you can’t set off your own fireworks, and you do still want to enjoy what LAist charmingly calls “sky confetti,” here are details from some local-ish venues and celebrations, where you can either visit or watch from a nearby high vantage point:
For even more venues around the larger LA area, see:
Finally, here are a few more handy resources for a safe holiday:
Print-Your-Own Anti-Fireworks signs: http://www.mysafela.org/fireworks-sign/
Report Illegal Fireworks: 877-275-5273 or https://complaint.lacity.org/fireworks
LAFD fireworks page (reporting, professional shows, etc.): http://lafd.org/news/celebrate-safely-public-fireworks-show-los-angeles
Happy Fourth of July!