You can't have an Independence Day without frequent news stories about the huge influx of dogs that come into shelters due to fear of fireworks. Really, you can find the similar story in almost every city in the United States.
Meanwhile, Emily Weiss, who a big fan of myth-busting, disputed these claims over at the ASPCA Pro.
One thing that I've for sure learned about Animal Welfare is that unsubstantiated claims and myths are common and that challenging these claims instead of taking them at face value is a good thing. Some examples of common practices or sayings that have proven to be false are that black cats shouldn't be adopted out around Halloween, that only 1 in 600 pit bulls in shelters finds a loving family, or that one unaltered cat will have 420,000 (or a bajillion) offspring.
So, I wanted to see for myself what happens at OUR shelter for the fourth of July -- to see what really happens. I am not one to rush to just assume something is true, but I will say, it SEEMS that intake goes up around the 4th of July.
So the following are the numbers of dogs that came into our shelter from any source for the months of June and July, and the individual days surround July 4th:
June: 578 total dogs (19.2 avg per day)
July: 589 total dogs (19 avg per day)
June 29: 16 dogs
June 30: 30
July 1: 18
July 2: 16
July 3: 18
July 4: 20
July 5: 14
July 6: 19
July 7: 26
July 8: 26
July 9: 28
July 10: 18
So, there are a lot of ways you can interpret the data -- which is why I'm leaving it out there for anyone to interpret on their own (and please share thoughts). And obviously, nothing happens in a complete vacuum, as there are always other factors at play, but here are a few of my thoughts:
1) I was a little surprised that there wasn't a notable increase in intake the days leading up to the 4th of July as many people in our community begin shooting off fireworks the week before the holiday. Yet, the average for the 5 days prior to the 4th was only 19.6 dogs per day -- a statistically insignificant difference from the monthly average.
2) There was not a huge surge in intake on the 4th of July, or the 5th. The average for these two days was 17 - so lower than the average for either June or July. It is important to note that our animal control was running on a lighter-than-normal staff due tot he holiday (and the 5th being a Sunday) and thus, the lower numbers of officers on the ground may have artificially kept numbers down those two days.
3) There was a noticable increase in intake though on the 7th, 8th and 9th. This could have been that dogs that ran off scared on the 4th and were finally venturing out for food/water. Or it could be that people who found lost dogs in their neighborhood tried for several days to find the owner before bringing them to the shelter. Or it could be a complete coincidence (which seems a bit unlikely).
4) The average dog intake for the dates the 5th-9th was 22.6 dogs per day. For the 6th-9th, it was 24.75 dogs per day. This translates as a 15% or 25% increase in intake depending on the figures you use.
The numbers are admittedly a small data-set given that it only represents one shelter for one year, but based on these numbers, it does appear as if there is an increase in dogs coming into the shelter following the 4th of July holiday. This increase may not happen on the actual 4th of July, and there may be a delay of a few days before the increase comes. But the increase does exist in this limited data-set.
However, the increase is somewhat manageable - -at 15-25% -- and not the straymaggedon that is so often forecast. This appears to be somewhat consistent with what I hear from shelter directors in other parts of the country.
And, it could be, that education efforts around the nation and in our community have led to people taking extra precautions for the holiday. If that's case, it's great news and keep up the good work
But for now, based on my very limited data set, I will conclude that the comments about increase in lost pets for the Fourth of July is TRUE, but with the reservation that it is not as extreme as many people make it out to be.
Do you have numbers from your shelter or animal control division? What are your thoughts?