PITTSBURG — America’s birthday brings a week of festivities to the city of Pittsburg, including backyard parties and family gatherings, accompanied by the crackling sound of bright fireworks shooting off into the sky.

However, these celebrations present safety hazards for both people and animals. Today is Independence Day and local experts shared details with the Morning Sun about what these dangers are, and how they can be avoided.

FIREWORKS SAFETY
According to the Office of the Kansas State Fire Marshal, there were 207 reported fireworks-related injuries in Kansas in 2018. Hands, eyes, face and head injuries were among those reported, and nearly half of the injuries involved children under 18.

Pittsburg Deputy Police Chief Tim Tompkins said the best way to avoid firework injuries is to follow manufacturer’s instructions, and keep a bucket of water and fire extinguisher handy at all times.

“Fireworks are designed to perform a certain way, but there’s no guarantee they’re going to perform that way,” Tompkins said. “If you try to do something that the manufacturer didn’t intend to, the results can be devastating.”

The state and city both have laws for shooting fireworks. The use or sale of bottle rockets and M80s is illegal and considered a crime in Kansas. Statewide, it is also illegal to shoot fireworks within 50 feet of a fireworks stand or where fireworks are stored, a gas station or any place storing liquid gas or propane, on any public roadway and on or under any vehicle, according to the Office of the Kansas State Fire Marshal.

According to Tompkins, local ordinance dictates that fireworks can only be shot during the hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m in Pittsburg. Fireworks can only be shot in Kansas from June 27 to July 5.

In addition to following manufacturing rules and state laws, Tompkins said it is also important to avoid storing fireworks in any area with high humidity.

“If you’re going to have folks over and you’re going to shoot a lot of fireworks and things, think about where you’re going to discharge your fireworks versus where you store them,” Tompkins said. “Plan things. Have things at the ready… be aware of your surroundings. I think that’s the biggest thing for folks — just pre-plan. Think ahead, be safe and have a happy Fourth of July.”

ANIMAL SAFETY
According to Dr. Heather Wallace, though the fireworks are a spectacle for humans, they are the opposite for dogs.

“Very rarely would I say a dog actually even watches the fireworks,” said Wallace, who is the veterinarian and owner of Broadway Animal Hospital in Pittsburg. “It’s the noise and the smell, and both of those are scary things.”

Fireworks can scare dogs, prompting them to run away from their homes as a way to escape their fear.

“I would say the number one thing is probably fear of the noise,” Wallace said. “When they get scared of the noise, it’s either a run and hide, or it’s a run away and run away is the biggest problem. We have lots of animals that break their lines, get over the fence and then get out and get lost.”

Fireworks can also elevate a dog’s anxiety, according to Wallace. If they show symptoms such as changing behavior, hiding, pacing around, drooling, destruction or getting out of the room, then a veterinarian can prescribe medicine or sedate them to calm them during that time period. Over the counter, owners can buy ThunderShirt — a tight vest for them to wear as an anxiety aid.

Wallace said the best way for owners to protect their pets from any harm or possibility of getting lost is to keep them inside at all times during the Fourth of July.

“Really, the biggest risk is when they’re outside already,” Wallace said. “When they’re outside, they get scared, they break their chain or they jump over the fence line, or they run away if they’re being locked and that’s where we see most of the lost dogs come from.”

Additionally, during Fourth of July barbecues and outdoor parties, Wallace said owners should monitor their dogs and keep an eye on what they are eating, as the fat off of steak can cause digestive issues or even death.

The easiest and best way to avoid any potential safety risks, according to Wallace, is to keep them away from the backyard.

“I would say the best thing [to do is] make sure that you know where your pet is at all times and inside is best,” Wallace said. “Really, if every dog was indoors the night of the Fourth of July, it would make a big difference.”