Following its inquiry into the impact of fireworks on humans and animals, the House of Commons Petitions Committee has released its report deeming the current law inadequate, and calling for measures to better protect animals – and people – from the stress caused by flashing lights and loud bangs.
Every year, we have to report about dog owners helpless to help as their dogs become distressed – and about dogs who become so frightened by a sudden bang that they bolt, sometimes with dire consequences as they become lost or risk of being hit by a car.
One of the most popular petitions for tighter regulation, backed by over half a million people, asked for restriction of private use of fireworks to traditional dates such as 5 November, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali.
“With extreme noise levels and people being able to let off fireworks any time of year, it’s difficult for those who care for animals to be able to put measures in place to protect their animals,” the petition reads.
“Around 40 per cent of dogs are fearful of loud noises such as fireworks, meaning thousands of animals’ lives are made a misery by random fireworks, some starting in early October in the run up to Guy Fawkes night and continuing until the following January.”
While the Committee report stops short of backing such restrictions, it acknowledges that “the current law does not offer people and animals enough protection from frequent disturbance”, particularly where there are “numerous public and domestic displays around the traditional and religious dates and a growing number of displays at other celebratory events like birthdays and weddings.”
The call for drastic restrictions, the report suggests, may have been motivated by “the Government’s repeated complacent and dismissive responses to people’s concerns”.
“While we do not support a ban on public sales and use of fireworks at this time, further inaction from Government and agencies could mean that it becomes the only option to reduce the harm caused by the misuse of fireworks,” the report continues.
“We believe local authorities should be empowered to limit the number of displays in their areas in these circumstances. We recommend the Government work with local authorities to identify a best practice approach to a revenue-neutral, mandatory permit system for fireworks displays, where local evidence suggests this is necessary to protect the community.
“The Government should work with a local authority to pilot the approach before the end of 2020, with a view to legislating to empower all local authorities to establish mandatory permit schemes where they deem it necessary.”
While the RSPCA welcomes the report, the charity maintains they would like the sale and use of fireworks limited to four specific celebrations and festive dates – 5 November, 31 December, Chinese New Year, and Diwali – as well as the restriction on the maximum level of decibels in those available to the public, with public fireworks displays licensed and advertised in advance.
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.”
The Petition Committee’s firework report concludes, “Through better monitoring and increased public awareness of the harms caused by the misuse of fireworks, greater regulation of the marketing and sales of fireworks, and more protections for those most impacted, we have offered the Government reasonable and workable recommendations, on which we expect action rather than continued apathy.
“People rightly expect the Government to listen to them and take their concerns seriously. The Government’s response to this Report is its chance to finally do that.”