SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Santa Barbara County Animal Services  is warning pet owners to take extra precautions to make sure their animals stay safe over the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend. According to Stacy Silva, who serves as Community Outreach Coordinator for Animal Services, the holiday is the busiest time of year for the department.

Silva says the department handles more lost pets and bite incidents during the Independence Day holiday than over any other time of the year. She adds its common to see more than 20 lost dogs end up in the shelter after the Fourth. Typically, the department sees the same number of lost dogs brought into the shelter over a week.

The main culprit for the large increase in lost animals is due to fireworks. Silva says animals can become easily frightened by the loud sounds and are prone to running off to escape the noise.

To make sure pets remain safe, owners can take several easy steps. “Pet owners should, number one, leave their animals at home. Put them inside a bedroom, close the blinds or drapes so the animal cannot see the excitement happening outside, put on a TV or radio for some calm soothing noise and above all, make sure your animal is wearing identification,” said Silva.

Should a pet owner lose their animal, they are advised to look for the lost pet around their home and neighborhood and then to call or visit the shelter on Saturday. Santa Barbara County Animal Services will have several officers working throughout the holiday weekend. If anyone sees a lost animal, they should not to approach it, but instead contact the Animal Services.