There are two things you can always count on during the traditional Fourth of July fireworks: Car alarms will go off and more than a few dogs will escape their yards and flee in terror.
More pets go missing over the July 4 weekend than any other time of the year, according to Knox County's Young-Williams Animal Center, which annually faces an influx of hundreds of pets after the holiday.
Why? Pets often flee after being scared by fireworks, run from an unfamiliar location during a family event, or ditch their owner after coming into contact with crowds.
"When they're scared and they're desperate, they definitely escape artists," said shelter CEO Janet Testerman. "Owners need to be cognizant of that. There's also a high likelihood of them being hit by cars."
If despite your best efforts, your beloved pooch runs away and can't be found, there are a few steps you can take. First, start your search with the animal shelter, which is the only facility in Knoxville and Knox County permitted to house stray animals and the most likely place to find your missing pet. Go online at young-williams.org/lost-found for a list of steps, including visiting the shelter, contacting local veterinarians, and searching on social media.
Prepping for the surge
The expected influx of stray animals over the holiday weekend comes at a time when the shelter is already at "critical" capacity, Testerman said.
"Summertime is definitely a higher intake time," she said. "Dogs are generally outside more in the summer and there's more of a propensity for animals to get loose. It's also breeding season for cats and so we get a lot of kittens."
Testerman said the shelter typically takes in about 30 to 40 animals a day and estimates that number will increase by about 30% over the holiday weekend. And of those strays, she said, only about 14% on average get returned to their owners.
"It puts a huge burden on the shelter," Testerman said.
Not surprisingly, Young-Williams Animal Center has a dire need for foster parents. The shelter is seeking short-term fosters so staff can make space in the shelter before the Fourth of July holiday.
“We are in immediate need of 50 short-term fosters this weekend to prepare for the anticipated increase in intake after the holiday,” said Brandy Ellison, director of inbound operations.
Volunteers would house a dog for just two weeks, shelter staff said.
"We really do try to make it as easy as possible," Testerman said. "There is no cost, the application process is easy and we provide all the food and resources. It's also a great way to have a temporary companion if you're not sure you're ready to be a foster."
Anyone interested in fostering can apply at young-williams.org/foster, then go directly to either the Young-Williams Animal Center location at 3201 Division St. or 6400 Kingston Pike to complete the application and pick up a foster pet.
Shelter staff can help match fosters with the best pet to suit their household, whether the foster has family pets or has never hosted a pet before.
Young-Williams Animal Center is the municipal shelter of the city of Knoxville and Knox County, and each year takes in more than 10,000 animals.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Emergency dog foster homes needed ahead of 4th of July surge in strays