Bang out of order: RSPCA welcomes new fireworks report

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The RSPCA welcomes the Petitions Committee’s report released today (Tuesday 5 November) following its inquiry into the impact of fireworks on humans and animals.

The report concludes that the existing law is inadequate and recommends that local authorities should be empowered to limit the number of displays in their areas through a system of permits; it also recommends that the incoming Government reviews noise levels of fireworks and funds an awareness campaign about the responsible use of fireworks.

The RSPCA welcomes this report but believes it could go further. The charity would like to see the public sale and use of fireworks limited to being closer to four specific celebration and festival dates (5 November, 31 December, Chinese New Year and Diwali). 

The charity also recommend noise restrictions on the maximum level of decibels fireworks available to the public can reach and that public fireworks displays should be licensed and advertised in advance. 

Figures from the RSPCA show hundreds of calls from concerned animal lovers – about animals including alpacas and an African grey parrot as well as dogs and horses – are made about fireworks every year to the charity.

Since 2014 the charity has received 2,285 calls about fireworks, with 411 of these calls last year alone. 

RSPCA government relations manager Claire McParland said: “We welcome the recommendations from the Petitions Committee which is demanding action against irresponsible fireworks use.

“We have long been campaigning for changes to the sale and use of fireworks and to raise awareness about the impact fireworks can have on animal welfare so we welcome this report which is calling for change.

“We would, however, like to see more regulation so that there is tighter restriction on the sale of fireworks to the public and on the use of fireworks, alongside a campaign that raises awareness of the impact of fireworks on all animals – pets, farm animals, horses and wildlife, and educates people about available treatment for fireworks phobia in some species.

“We see the impact of fireworks on animals every year and with more than 750,000 people signing petitions to restrict their use in recent years, we know there is strong public feeling surrounding the issue of fireworks.”

An RSPCA survey* carried out last month found that 62% of dog owners polled said their animals showed signs of distress during the fireworks season, and 54% of cat owners also reported their animals were showing signs of distress.

This means potentially thousands of animals’ lives are made a misery by fireworks every year. Of all people polled 76% agreed with the RSPCA’s policy that fireworks should be restricted to traditional dates and 85% said they thought public firework displays should be licensed and advertised before taking place.

Sadly it is not just cats and dogs and other household pets that are affected by fireworks. Horses and farm animals can easily be frightened by loud noises and sudden flashes of bright light, which can startle them and cause them to injure themselves on fencing, equipment or, in the case of stabled or housed animals, on fixtures and fittings within their enclosures.

Wildlife can also be burned after making their home in bonfires so people should always check the pile for animals before lighting them. 

The RSPCA has stated it would encourage people to go to an advertised, organised firework event as pet owners are more likely to know these are happening so can prepare their animals ahead of the event and attending these organised events also reduces the overall number of fireworks that disturb animals.

If you want to have your own celebration

  • Please only let fireworks off on traditional celebration dates

  • Use low noise fireworks

  • Let your neighbours know well in advance, including those with horses nearby

  • Never set off fireworks near livestock or horses

  • Don’t let off fireworks if they’ll disturb nearby wildlife habitats, or roosting bats or birds

  • Build any bonfire as close as possible to the time of lighting, to reduce the risk of wildlife making their home inside 

  • Pick up firework debris and litter after it has cooled down  

Keeping pets secure

  • Give your cat or dog somewhere to hide which they can access at all times - maybe under furniture or in a quiet corner

  • Walk dogs during daylight hours and keep dogs and cats indoors when fireworks are likely to be set off

  • At nightfall close windows and curtains and put on music such as Classic FM to mask the sound of fireworks

  • Make sure your pet can’t escape if there’s a sudden noise, and remember to make sure your pets are microchipped and keep your microchip details up to date 

  • Never punish your pets when they are scared as this will only make things worse in the long run 

  • It’s fine to comfort your pet if it helps them relax, or leave them alone unless you think they will harm themselves 

Horses, ponies and donkeys

  • Check for any firework displays planned locally and, where possible, ask organisers to site fireworks well away from your horse – aimed in the opposite direction

  • Keep your horse in a familiar environment, following their normal routine with their usual companions. If your horse is staying in their field, check the fencing is secure and there are no dangerous objects they could collide with if startled.

  • If stabled, make sure haynets are secure so your horse can’t get caught up. 

  • You should stay with your horse if you know fireworks are going to be set off, but do be aware of your own safety – a startled horse can be dangerous 

Click here for more information and resources about how to reduce stress in animals during fireworks season.

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