You may have heard the old story of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, kicking over a lantern in her barn and starting the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. While the tale is in dispute even to this day, the truth is that hundreds of thousands of animals are injured in house fires every year. In many cases, it’s the pets themselves who set the fires ablaze.
In order to prevent pet-induced fires and the injuries they cause, the American Kennel Club has designated July 15 to be National Pet Fire Safety Day. Pet owners can take the following precautions to keep their homes, their animals, and their loved ones safe:
- Guard open flames. Cats often walk on top of mantles and bookshelves where decorative candles are burning, and dogs may be drawn to the smell of food simmering on the stove. Make sure that you are in full view of any open flame in your house (including a fire in the fireplace), and make sure all candles and fires have been completely extinguished before you leave home.
- Think ahead. The most common ways pets start fires are by knocking over candles and accidentally turning on the stove. If you like the glow of candles, you can purchase flameless candles that are battery operated, removing the need to worry about your pets’ safety. If your pets roam the house while you’re at work, simply pull the stove knobs off (or protect them with covers) before you leave the house.
- Avoid glass water bowls. Many people leave water outdoors on their porches and decks for animals to keep cool on hot days. However, the sun’s rays are concentrated by the water and bowl and can ignite the wooden surface beneath. Stick to metal or ceramic bowls for your pets, both indoors and out.
- Keep pets secure. Pets who are allowed to wander freely through the house are more likely to get into trouble. If your dog is a puppy (or is prone to mischief), keep him securely locked in a kennel or in a room with a locked baby gate until you are home to watch him. A kennel should be placed near the front of the house, where a friend or firefighter can easily reach it in an emergency.
- Prepare for an emergency. Pet stores sell simple pet alert window clings for owners to place on a front door or window in the event of a fire. Keep the notice current with the number of pets you have, the types of pets, and their names. Always keep collars on your pets when you aren’t home, as this will help firefighters to locate them (especially for cats, who may try to hide from a fire).
- Set up alerts. If your pet is home alone regularly, you may wish to invest in monitored smoke detectors, which connect to call centers and alert emergency responders automatically. You can also set up a webcam to keep an eye on your dog remotely, or ask a neighbor to check in once or twice during the day.
What Else Can I Do to Protect My Loved Ones From a Fire?
If you know someone who regularly falls asleep with a fire burning in the fireplace or neglects to blow out candles, feel free to share this article on Facebook or via email. Your friend may dismiss your worries about his safety, but might think twice about potentially hurting his four-legged friend.