SCHENECTADY – Philomena Aceto said she’s prepared to protect her dog Enzo from what’s sure to be an uptick in anxiety-inducing fireworks displays from city scofflaws.
“We’ve got our arsenal prepared, we’re locked and loaded,” Aceto said.
“We’ve got things to put over his ears. We’ve got tranquilizers. And we‘re not leaving the house. We wouldn’t dare leave him out during the Fourth of July weekend, because they’ve already started this week,” she said. “As it gets closer to the Fourth, it’s probably just gonna get worse.”
Aceto, who lives in the General Electric Realty Plot neighborhood, said Enzo, a 4-year-old mixed breed, “basically just goes nuts – shaking, panting and he won’t stay still” when offenders shoot off fireworks. “He runs from room to room.”
Fireworks are illegal in New York.
Only sparklers and similar small fireworks are legal, subject to county legislative approval. Schenectady County does not allow them.
Police ramp up
City police will ratchet up efforts to catch offenders, putting out extra officers on streets both Saturday and Sunday, according to Officer Pat Irwin, a Schenectady police spokesman.
“They basically put out what we call a bid to have officers sign up, and I know a fair amount of officers signed up to work, in addition to the regular patrol,” Irwin said.
Police are also putting out a media statement and public service announcement Friday in an attempt to calm the urban phenomenon, Irwin said.
“For us it falls under quality of life,” Irwin said of the magnitude of the illegal fireworks problem. “You have people with young children or veterans or pets, and it’s just a nuisance.”
Offenders are hard to catch, he acknowledged.
“If you think about a firework itself, you’re not going to stand next to it when it goes off,” Irwin said. “For the most part, it’s when there’s groups of people. It’s just hard to pinpoint who it’s coming from, or where it’s coming from. But it’s also a problem because of the quantity within the city. It’s all over the city.”
It’s also hard to prove without good information about where the fireworks came from, or if police didn’t witness it firsthand, he said.
“But we are working out some new things that we’re going to try, starting this weekend, that we’re going to hope to make more arrests off of,” Irwin said.
Dealing with fireworks
Aceto, the owner of Enzo, said she feels it’s “absolutely horrible” that her dog has to be medicated to deal with the trauma of illegal fireworks.
“Once that kicks in, he’s better, but then he’s completely out because he’s knocked out from the drugs, which really is a [bad] thing to do to him as well, but it’s either that, or having him be so manic that I’m afraid he’s gonna have a heart attack.”
The illegal fireworks displays come at all hours.
“They’re blowing them off all the time, day and night,” according to Aceto, who said Enzo is also reactive to the cannon that goes off during football games at nearby Union College.
“Sometimes I hear the fireworks at 3 in the afternoon, sometimes I hear them at 3 in the morning, and last year it was really, really, really bad, and I was calling the police every day.”
She said many of her fellow dog-owning neighbors are dealing with the problem.
“We’re always sharing ideas on what we can do to calm our dogs down,” she said. “Earplugs, medicine, turning on lots of fans, turning the TV up really loud, and giving them things to distract them.”
Aceto said her vet has prescribed many types of tranquilizers, and she’s got “every kind of dog CBD known to man.”
Aceto works at Head to Tail Pet Wellness Center on Union Street, whose owner said fireworks are problematic for many of their customers.
“We have veterans that come in with their dogs even, and are concerned with it,” owner Marie DeBrocky said. “I wish that people would just understand that having one uniform Fourth of July celebration somewhere for people to go and see would be much better than having them go off all night long, in your backyard.”
City Council discussion
The panel recently granted Councilman John Polimeni’s request to send a letter to the state Attorney General’s Office asking that it go after companies that market fireworks to New York State customers.
A “Get Lit” billboard on Erie Boulevard now encourages consumers to head to New Hampshire for their fireworks, while a billboard nearby on North Brandywine Avenue flashes: “Fireworks are illegal,” and “Strict Enforcement, Heavy Fines.”
It has also broached a public education strategy.
“I’m asking all of us to be considerate of our neighbors as we relax and enjoy the holiday weekend,” Councilwoman Carmel Patrick said Thursday. “Remember that fireworks are not only illegal in Schenectady, but the noise can cause extreme hardship for pets, veterans who may suffer from PTSD, and others. Celebrate the Fourth safely.”