Ah, the 4th of July. Picnics, barbecues, beer, hotdogs, potato chips and American flags — the time of year when renegades all over my neighborhood throw caution to the wind and decide to host their very own illegal fireworks displays in the middle of my street. As I sat in my backyard on the evening of the 4th, one of my neighbors set off something that had me thinking Kim Jong II’s long range missile might have actually found its mark in my front yard. The bang was so loud that I ducked and considered hiding under my patio furniture.

Having just adopted a new kitten about 5 days prior, I was sure he had probably died of a heart attack right in the middle of my living room floor. I went inside to check on him. He was chewing happily on his favorite toy. He’s deathly afraid of the dust buster, but the prospect of nuclear war doesn’t seem to frighten him.

Of course, Charlie is the exception to the rule. Anyone who owns an animal knows what a nightmare the 4th of July can be. As a child, my family’s beautiful and supremely brave German shepherd, Kasey, would jump our six-foot-high backyard fence every 4th of July. I’ve heard of people tranquilizing their pets on the 4th. We never went that far, but we probably should have. It would have saved Kasey a lot of stress and heartache.

Now, before you start making assumptions: I’m not a crazy pet-owner, and I don’t think all fireworks should be banned so that our nation’s pets are more comfortable. In fact, I love fireworks. I do, however, think that the Pleasant Valley Lion’s Club and City of Camarillo’s decision to hold their fireworks display one-mile from the Ventura County Animal Shelter is one of the worst and most insensitive displays of patriotism I’ve ever heard of.

The Ventura County Animal Shelter is where I adopted my kitten. It is a wonderful place that can house up to 400 displaced animals — animals that are already a little stressed and upset by unfamiliar surroundings. According to volunteers who staff the shelter on the night of the 4th in order to calm the animals, it sounds as though the fireworks are being shot off the roof, they’re so close.

Many animals bloody their paws, rip out nails and break teeth they are so frightened by the noise.

City officials claim that they have tried looking for a different place to hold the fireworks event, but can’t find one. There’s no way to fix what happened this year, everything is over and done with, but next year Camarillo should seriously consider canceling their fireworks until they find a more appropriate venue. There are plenty of other fireworks shows throughout the county for Camarillo residents to attend — Ventura College, Channel Islands Harbor and Fillmore High School are the first few that come to mind.

I can ooh and ahh over fireworks with the best of them, but I can’t get behind planning a fireworks display near an animal shelter, especially when the people who are doing the planning know exactly what the consequences will be.