Holiday Hell for Animals



I slept all day today. The entire past week was spent keeping our sanctuary horses safe from the fireworks that culminated in last night’s Fourth of July “Celebration.” It felt like a week of trauma for the horses, for us and for our rescued dog who stayed inside the house, but still felt the ill effects of the nearby “bombing.” Each year the fireworks have gotten louder and last night I wondered about the decibels inflicted upon those close to the explosions. We felt the shock waves even inside buildings. It was a nightmare.

Twice a year (the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve) this abomination is allowed that terrifies animals, disrupts wildlife and assaults veterans with PTSD. I cannot wrap my head around the advice that was posted on social media to “take your animals somewhere that does not allow fireworks.” That we could somehow gather up dogs, horses, cats and leave our homes for however long the barrage of flying fire missiles and earth shaking explosions lasted is surely a joke.

And during this period of weather warnings: fire weather; excessive heat; dangerous dry conditions, the fact fireworks were even allowed this year boggles the mind.

This is nothing new. In the 1980s, I wrote an article for the newspaper about the misery of fireworks for animal owners. I interviewed a fireworks vendor who told me selling them twice a year was his family’s year’s income. He made his money for the year by selling fireworks for a couple of weeks twice yearly. I’m sorry; I have no sympathy for such a situation. Considering the trauma inflicted by his “profession,” my first thought was “get a real job”.

I spent night after night this year making and feeding strong calming medicines to horses at two stable yards. I played calming music, had every light on at both places and walked from horse to horse giving extra hay and trying to soothe them, hour after hour. With pharmaceuticals for back-up (they all have side effects) in case of real panic, the monetary cost was substantial and there was always the danger of injury if trying to handle a panicked horse.

I know our neighbors are decent people. I realize they are simply ignorant of the chaos they inflict. But that doesn’t help me when I watch our 30-year-old, blind mare (who was dumped in the desert to die and we rescued her) walk circle after circle nickering in fear.

A couple of Benadryl kept our sweet young dog from total panic inside the house and a steady stream of coffee, tea and protein bars kept me awake, alive to manage the situation each night. Why should I have to do this? Why should friends have to put Thunder Shirts on dogs, get tranquilizers from the veterinarian and leave the TV on loud for their dogs and cats so other people can burn their money in backyard displays of shrieking, flashing and exploding nonsense.

I watched bats, lit by the floodlights, crashing into trees as the loudest explosions hit. I saw the confusion in the horses’ eyes as they cowered or ran in circles. What hell some of them went through. I say “some,” because we have several horses who are not frightened by the “celebrating.” They helped calm the terrified ones.

All of this baffles me because communities present large, professionally handled fireworks displays that anyone can attend. Backyard fireworks, to me, are akin to having “backyard rock festivals” or “backyard motocross” and even those would be limited in duration. And they would be quieter!

Katharine Chrisley-Schreiber, CEO
Dharmahorse Equine Sanctuary
Las Cruces