Firework season, which kicks off with Bonfire Night on 5 November and continues throughout the New Year, has begun – and pet owners are more concerned than ever.
RSPCA figures show that around 62 per cent of UK dogs, as well as 55 per cent of horses and 54 per cent of cats, show signs of anxiety when they hear fireworks. The loud noises and bright flashes of fireworks can be extremely distressing for animals, who may hurt themselves in their fright. Every year, dogs spooked by a sudden bang will bolt off and become lost, causing heartbreak and distress to everyone involved.
But here are way owners can help.
The RSPCA advises:
- Fireworks phobia is a treatable condition and vet advice should be sought in the first instance.
- Using a Sounds Scary! CD can help dogs learn to be less afraid of loud noises in the long-term.
- For any pet, whether it be a dog, cat, rabbit or rodent, make sure you provide suitable hiding places with extra bedding where they can feel safe. This is also true for animals that live outside.
- Close all windows and curtains.
- Play music or put on the television to muffle the fireworks.
- Make sure they’re kept in a safe place during any display.
- Never punish or fuss over them as it can make things worse.
- Make sure your pets are microchipped in case they escape.
- Give your dog their walk earlier in the day.
- Never ever take a dog to a fireworks display – even if they don’t make noise or show other signs of being scared – it’s still highly likely to be a stressful situation for them.
- Pheromone diffusers may help dogs and cats feel calmer.
While public displays are predictable and can be prepared for, unregulated “backyard celebrations” – with bangs ringing out unpredictably throughout the day and night from early November right up to the New Year – are more of a challenge.
As official displays are cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, there is much concern that this may cause a rise in such celebrations. A petition to ban the sale of fireworks to the general public in England was discussed by MPs on Monday 2 November.
In Scotland, a report by the Scottish Government’s Fireworks Review Group on 3 November acknowledges the need for a ‘fundamental shift’ in how fireworks are accessed and used in Scotland.
The report recommends the implementation of 11 measures, including:
- the introduction of mandatory conditions when fireworks are purchased from retailers
- restricting the times of day fireworks can be sold and volume of fireworks that can be purchased at any one time
- restricting the days and times fireworks can be set off
- the introduction of no firework areas or zones
- the creation of a proxy purchasing offence to prevent adults from buying fireworks on behalf of those under the age of 18.
Kathleen Robertson, President of the Scottish Branch President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said, “The report’s recommendations are a welcome step towards positive and much-needed change in fireworks controls in Scotland.
“It was a privilege to be the voice of the veterinary profession on this inter-disciplinary review group. The regulation of fireworks is a real One Health issue that impacts the health and welfare of animals, humans and our environment.
“The loud and high-pitched noises from fireworks can be extremely traumatic for animals, and vets see first-hand the impact of firework-related distress at this time of the year. BVA has long supported calls for overhauling the current controls on the use and sale of fireworks, which we feel don’t go far enough to protect the health and welfare of animals in Scotland and across the UK.
“We look forward to seeing the report’s recommendations implemented by the Scottish Government as soon as possible.”