Many horse owners dread Fireworks Night (5 November) and the surrounding days, as their animals become distressed during displays, sometimes with devastating consequences.
There are ways to reduce the impact of fireworks displays on your horse, but many will still be hoping for a change in the actions of the public this time of year. The RSPCA is campaigning for such a change in the form of tighter regulations on the use of fireworks, and is urging animal lovers to join their campaign.
“We want to reassure you that we’re not calling for a ban on fireworks – simply tighter regulations and consideration of others,” said a spokesman for the charity.
“Organised local events will generally receive prior notice through advertising and word of mouth. The timings for these events are also arranged within a timeframe to attract families.
“Private displays are much more unpredictable and harder to control. It becomes impossible for neighbours to prepare their pets, horses and livestock properly.”
The charity revealed that 64 percent of pets affected by fireworks were impacted by private garden display. Ninety two percent of owners didn’t have prior notice of fireworks displays nearby and 14 percent of the animals were in distress as a result of antisocial behaviour.
Bang Out of Order: Proposed law changes
The RSPCA is calling for the UK Government to follow Scotland’s lead and change laws as follows:
- Limit the sale and use of fireworks. Fireworks should only be sold and let off for Bonfire Night specifically from 29 October to 5 November, with similar time limitations for other traditional dates, meaning a much shorter timespan than currently.
- Implementing firework control zones. Fireworks must be entirely prohibited near horses’ habitats, sensitive wildlife areas, farms, animal centres and zoos.
- Reducing maximum noise levels. The maximum permitted noise level for public sale of fireworks must be reduced from 120dB to 90dB, in line with international standards, to mitigate noise pollution and protect animals and individuals.
“We believe that by introducing these measures, we can establish effective legislation that prioritises the safety and well-being of animals and vulnerable people,” they added. “We believe that responsible enjoyment is possible for all.”
To support the campaign, you can easily write to your local MP by using the RSPCA’s pre-written email. The simple process only takes a minute. To do so, visit rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/fireworks and scroll down to the bottom of the page to fill out the template.
Making progress and advice for the public
This time last year the RSPCA welcomed the Petitions Committee’s report released following its inquiry into the impact of fireworks on humans and animals.
The report concluded 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 recommended that the incoming Government reviews noise levels of fireworks and funds an awareness campaign about the responsible use of fireworks.
The RSPCA welcomed the report but believes it could go further, as the most recent campaign details.
If you want to have your own celebration, the RSPCA advises the following:
- 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