INDEPENDENCE DAY is a special time to celebrate our country.

We are blessed to live here and are fortunate to enjoy the benefits the U.S. provides.

Our country is experiencing historic changes and a new vision is being created for its future. There is no time greater to celebrate our love for the United States than the Fourth of July.

The love of animals has been a part of the United States starting from our forefathers. Pets have stayed in the White House dating to George Washington's time in office.

Washington owned 36 hounds, many horses, and a parrot named Polly. John Quincy Adams had a pet alligator. Yikes! The love of animals is as American as Independence Day itself.

Everyone loves the fun and festivities of the July Fourth celebrations. However, our pets may not have the same appreciation for these patriotic displays, including fireworks.

Dogs, cats, horses and even livestock can react to fireworks in ways that could cause injury or even death. The fear of noises and sounds like fireworks and thunderstorms are known as "noise phobias."

I strongly recommend the following safeguards to protect your pet:

1. During the upcoming celebrations, keep small pets indoors. A good idea is to keep the pet in an interior room without windows. Create a sanctuary for your pet. Turn on the TV or radio to provide some distraction.

2. Never leave pets alone outdoors, even if tethered or in a fenced yard. It is not uncommon for dogs to escape or injure themselves in a frenzied attempt to escape. Many animal shelters report increases of "stray" animals after the Fourth of July because of the number of pets running away in an attempt to avoid the noise and excitement.

3. If you are planning on attending a fireworks celebration, leave your pet at home. If you must be outside with your pet, be sure to have the pet constrained on a leash or kept in a carrier.

4. Some pets may become "fearfully aggressive" because of the loud noises. Protect your pets from children who may not realize the consequences of waving sparklers or setting off home fireworks.

5. Be sure that your pet has microchip or a current ID tag so that you and your pet can be easily reunited in case he or she runs off.

6. If your pet is afraid of loud noises like thunder, fireworks will be a big problem. Consult your veterinarian ahead of time and pick up some tranquilizers to lower your pet's anxiety level.

Hopefully, everyone will be safe and comfortable and may our pets be spared any harm. Happy Fourth of July to everyone.

Contact Raj Salwan, a second-generation veterinarian, at drsalwan@aol.com or www.americananimalcare.com.