Impending ‘Boom’: New Georgia fireworks law lights up year-round concern for owners of anxious pets

Georgia residents will no longer have to cross state lines, and break state laws, to purchase aerial fireworks beginning July 1.

On May 5, Nathan Deal signed House Bill 110, legalizing all types of fireworks in the state. Previously, only ground-based fireworks, such as spark-emitting fountains, were legal.

Critics of the bill have expressed concerns regarding the number of potential injuries that may result in fireworks being readily available. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association, the top two fireworks-related injuries in the United States in 2012 were caused by small firecrackers (18%), and sparklers (16%) both of which were legal prior to Deal signing HB-110.

Atlanta resident and pet owner Sam Jones has a different concern: his two dogs, Lady, 8, and Gray, 15, both of whom suffer from severe anxiety around fireworks and thunderstorms.

Jones loves fireworks, but he also loves his dogs. “I am really excited that Georgia is coming out of the Stone Age and finally legalizing the good fireworks,” he said. “It will save me the drive every year, so that’s a plus.

However, though his dogs’ issues with fireworks have kept him from celebrating a single Fourth of July away from home for the last 13 years, he still purchases an arsenal of his own every year. “I knew I had a big problem on my hands in 2002, when I came home to my dog Gray – and my sunroom – covered in blood,” Jones explained. “Once I got over the initial shock, I realized that the blood was coming from right above Gray’s paw, which was kinda just…limp. She had lacerated her tendon on the glass panels she had broken out trying to get away from all the explosions.”

Sam rushed the dog to the vet, and they were able to reattach the tendon, but according to Jones, she has never walked the same since. “She sounds a lot like Igor from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, just dragging that club foot. I always know when she’s coming,” he laughed. “Every third step is a ‘klomp’.”

“There are some dogs that have more of a propensity to act [out] like that; but those dogs tend to also have bad storm anxiety. So around the holidays that there are more fireworks, they’ll get more upset,” said Lead Receptionist at The Village Vets in Decatur, Cat Fitzgerald. “But usually, the owners are pretty aware that their dog has [anxiety], and they’ll pick up a little anti-anxiety something-or-other, if [it’s] needed.

Unfortunately for Jones, sedating his two dogs for the duration of the holiday weekend has been the only thing that keeps them somewhat subdued and in turn, safe. Anxiety Pets

“As much as I hated driving out of state to buy fireworks, I always saw it as a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Personally, the only thing besides my dogs that has kept me from lightin’ off fireworks almost every night has been that pain-in-the-ass drive. Now, they’re gonna be so accessible…just right down the road.”

At least I knew when to prepare for the impending doom that comes to my house during the holidays,” he said. “But now, who knows? Now it’s my anxiety that is though the roof.”

Have an anxious pet? Here are some hints from Cat Fitzgerald to take that will help out your furry friend, as well as your budget:

“Start small. If your dog doesn’t necessarily have to be medicated, you want them to stay off medication. Start with a Thundershirt. And then, if that doesn’t work, try something over the counter, like Benadryl, on an as-needed basis. And then, if that doesn’t work, you probably should come in.”

The Village Vets of Decatur is opened 24 hours a day; after-hours are for emergencies only. They are located at 217 N. McDonough Street, Decatur, GA 30030. To schedule an appointment for your pet, call 404-371-0111. 

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