Exploding Tennis Balls — Why You Need to Keep Your Dog Away from Tennis Balls Around the Fourth of July

Dangerous Tennis Ball Bomb

Dog catching a tennis ball

For most humans, the Fourth of July is an exciting holiday, filled with barbecues, fireworks shows and watching little kids run around with sparklers. But for many dogs, this holiday is their worst nightmare. The loud explosions and bright lights quickly overwhelm their senses, and some react as if the world was coming to an end. Sadly, dogs now have something even worse to fear on the Fourth of July. And it comes in the form of one of their favorite play things — tennis balls. Image source

 

Tennis ball bomb alert

For most humans, the Fourth of July is an exciting holiday, filled with barbecues, fireworks shows and watching little kids run around with sparklers. But for many dogs, this holiday is their worst nightmare. The loud explosions and bright lights quickly overwhelm their senses, and some react as if the world was coming to an end. Sadly, dogs now have something even worse to fear on the Fourth of July. And it comes in the form of one of their favorite play things — tennis balls. Image source

A dog with a tennis ball in its mouth

Dogs love to chase things, especially balls. They also like picking up items that they find lying around. But police are warning dog owners that these two normally innocuous habits could actually turn out to be fatal to their pets, especially around the Fourth of July. Why? Because some individuals are turning tennis balls into homemade firecrackers. And in some cases, those balls are actually powerful enough to kill a dog. Image source 

A dog killed by a tennis ball bomb being carried away

It’s not uncommon to find stray tennis balls lying around parks or outside of tennis courts. And if you’re like most people, you’ve probably picked up some of those balls to throw to your pup. Your dog may have even picked up a few on its own, as well. In most cases, it’s an excellent way to bring home a few free toys for your dog. Image source

Snopes confirms the tennis ball bomb issue

But in November 2000, a man was walking a Labrador owned by a friend when he found a tennis ball that had been wrapped in duct tape. The man picked up the ball and threw it for the Labrador several times without anything unusual occurring. But then the unthinkable happened. As the dog was returning the ball one last time, it exploded. According to witnesses, the blast was so powerful that people living four blocks away felt it. Although the dog was not immediately killed by the small explosion, it could not be saved and had to be put to sleep on the spot. Image source

Now, if you’re a skeptic, you might think this story sounds too strange to be true. The Internet is, of course, full of viral tales and pictures that turn out to be fake. But, sadly, this story is, in fact, very true. Snopes — that well-known site that investigates Internet rumors — checked it out, and it has verified that it actually happened in Oregon. And these homemade tennis ball firecrackers continue to be found on a regular basis.

A tennis ball bomb cut open

Of course, these explosive tennis balls aren’t just dangerous to dogs who can trigger them by chomping down on the homemade firecracker. They can also severely injure anybody picking one up. The man who had been out walking the Labrador was just fortunate that he was not injured, as well. And can you imagine what could have happened if a small child had found this device instead of a dog? Image source

Two dogs in a field playing with a tennis ball bomb

So why would anyone leave such a dangerous device lying around? It is believed that in most cases, the people creating these mini bombs are not actually targeting other humans or dogs. Instead, these homemade firecrackers are ones that the creator may have thought were duds. Perhaps, they threw them down, expecting an explosion. Jarod Kasner, a public information officer for the Kent Police Department in Washington State told a local CBS News station that if the device “… doesn’t go ‘boom,’ some people just walk away from it. Unfortunately, dogs pick up everything up in their mouth and bring it to you.” Image source

Putting exclusives inside a tennis ball

These homemade firecrackers are very easy to make. And they don’t require anything fancy to create them. Most can be made with items that can be easily purchased or even found around your house. For example, one type of tennis ball bomb can be made with matches, duct tape and, of course, a ball. Directions for making these devices are easy to find. In fact, there are many videos and tutorials available online that will show you exactly how to create one of these mini tennis ball bombs.Image source

Wikihow ingredients for a tennis ball bomb

WikiHow, for instance, has an illustrated, step-by-step guide on how to create a match head tennis ball. And, basically, all a person has to do is fill a tennis ball with match heads and then wrap it with some duct tape. If done properly, the ball will explode if it receives a sharp jolt — for instance, the thud from hitting the ground after being thrown or, sadly, a dog biting down on it. The sharp jolt will cause the matches inside the ball to rub against one another and ignite, which will eventually result in an explosion. Image source

Homemade tennis ball explosives

Other people make their homemade fireworks by removing the material from the inside of a manufactured firework and then stuffing the explosives into a ball or other suitable container. They’ll then add a wick and set their creation off. According to Kasner, “Some of them are very effective and dangerous, and some of them don’t work, but you don’t know.” Image source

A tennis ball match stick bomb on the ground

While tennis balls tend to be the most common vessel for these bombs, some people will also use other hollow items, such as ping pong balls or plastic pipes. And sometimes people who are experimenting with making homemade explosive devices just leave their materials lying around, perhaps not realizing the damage they can do. Image source

A man gets hit by a tennis ball explosive and gets taken to the hospital

For example, in July 2016, a college student walking in New York’s Central Park stepped on a plastic bag that contained a homemade firecracker. The resulting explosion blew off part of his foot. After investigating the scene, the police came to the conclusion that the device had not been left to deliberately hurt anyone, but had probably been abandoned when it didn’t go off as originally planned. A member of the NYPD Bomb Squad told the New York Post, “It is not unusual for the public to make or try to create homemade fireworks around the Fourth of July. This is a time of a year where typically we will see a lot of experimentation — explosive experimenters, if you will.” Image source

Tennis ball bomb warning on the news

These devices have been found both in cities and in rural areas. So to keep your dogs safe, make sure to keep them away from any suspicious looking objects at all times, especially balls that appear to have been tampered with. Warning signs that a tennis ball may contain explosives include visible holes or cut marks, a wick, duct tape covering the ball or burn marks. Image source

Dog killed by a tennis ball filled with explosives

As you can probably guess, an exploding firecracker can do extensive damage to a dog, cruelly maiming or even killing the victim. This pit bull puppy had a firework intentionally shot into her face. Blinded by the explosion and the pain, the poor dog ran into the street and was killed by a car. Sadly, fireworks are used to torture dogs more than you would think. For example, in 2012, evil teenagers in Bosnia placed fireworks in a dog’s mouth and then tied it shut. The dog had to be destroyed. Image source

A man holds a sample of a tennis ball bomb

And while it’s important to keep your dog away from suspicious looking balls, it’s also imperative that you never touch an object you believe to be a homemade firecracker. Kasner cautions that a tennis ball firecracker “… could be smoldering on the inside and when you move it around, that’s when it goes off.” So leave suspicious items alone, but call 911 so that authorities can investigate the device and also dispose of it. You don’t want to just leave the item for someone else, their kid or their dog to discover. Image source

A bunch of fireworks and a dog

But it’s not just homemade firecrackers that make the Fourth of July such a nightmare for dogs and their owners. Manufactured firecrackers and fireworks are equally terrifying to pups. According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), “Dogs have jumped fences, broken chains, torn through screen doors and even leaped through glass doors — sometimes seriously injuring themselves in the process — in a desperate (and futile) effort to escape the bombardment.” Image source

More pets get lost on the fourth of July

In fact, the Fifth of July is historically the busiest day of the year at animal shelters as pet owners search for pets that fled in fear the night before. Sadly, many of the canines that had bolted from their homes or their owners on the Fourth of July are never found again. Image source

Labrador running away

So what should you do in order to keep your pet safe? Number one, never take your dog to a fireworks show. Yes, it may be tempting to include Fido in this All-American tradition, but there is a very good chance that your dog will be freaked out by the brutal assault on its senses. And in their terror, they could actually wrestle free from their collars and run into traffic. Image source

Firecrackers going off

And you should never leave your canines outside on the Fourth of July. Instead bring them in the house. And if you know that your pet has anxiety on the Fourth of July, you may want to stay home with them to ensure that they don’t hurt themselves or damage your house. Of course, people don’t just shoot fireworks on the Fourth of July, especially if the holiday falls in the middle of the week. Celebrations may occur on the weekend before the Fourth and some people just love shooting off fireworks. So you may want to consider keeping your canines inside of your house for the week or two before and after the Fourth of July. Image source

Scared dog in bed

Will you be hosting a Fourth of July party? Then make sure to lock your dog up in a safe place where your guests aren’t likely to accidentally let them out. You may even want to put a note on the door where your dog is located so that guests won’t enter that particular room. Image source

Dalmatian hiding behind a couch

Try to mask the sights and sounds of the Fourth of July by shutting your windows and blinds. You should also turn your television or radio on loudly to cover the sound of the firecrackers or fireworks. Image source

A dog wearing a ThunderShirt

And if you already know that your dog is terrified by fireworks, consider getting a prescription from your veterinarian for sedatives. Some dog owners also say that placing their canine in a tight-fitting ThunderShirt seems to help their pets deal with the anxiety caused by the loud explosions. Image source

A dog wearing a microchipped GPS collar

Finally, make sure that your dog is wearing an ID tag and/or is micro-chipped. That way if your pup should run away, you’ll have a better chance of finding them. Image source

Brown Labrador chewing on a tennis ball

While the Fourth of July is an exciting holiday for humans, it can be terrifying, even deadly, for dogs. So make sure that you are extra vigilant about what your dog plays with and keep them inside so that they won’t have to deal with the frightening noises and bright flashes. Image source

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