The RSPCA has teamed up with Stanhope Park Vets and firefighters from Darlington Fire Station to urge people to think about animals as Bonfire Night draws near.
A photocall took place at Darlington Fire Station this week (Tuesday 24 October) to help promote the message.
RSPCA chief inspector Mark Gent said: “Fireworks are terrifying for animals, we all know that. Figures show nearly half of dogs show signs of anxiety when they hear them.
“Already this year we’ve heard stories in the media of animals who have hurt themselves and even died as a result of the terror they quite understandably feel when fireworks are going off nearby.
“We want to urge people to think about animals when using fireworks and ideally go to an organised event to keep the number of fireworks being let off to a minimum.”
Hundreds of calls are made about fireworks every year to the charity. Last year (2016) 345 calls were logged by the RSPCA in just October and November alone.
Vet Micaela Wright, from Stanhope Park Vets, who brought along her Husky dog Kobi, said: “There are things you can do to make things better for your animals.
“If you haven’t already done so, people with animals need to start planning how they’re going to manage their welfare over the coming days and weeks now.
“There are products on the market which can help with anxiety – like Thundershirts and diffusers which disperse calming chemicals into the room. Speak to your vet about how they can help.
“Keep dogs and cats in when it’s dark and consider those animals who live outside too – bring them in where possible or if they must stay outside ensure their housing is covered. Close windows and curtains and put on music or turn up the TV to muffle the sound. Whether inside or out, make sure your pet has a safe haven they can hide in if they want to.”
Fire investigation manager Lee Aspery has two working search dogs, black cocker spaniel Scrappy and brown and white Springer spaniel Woodie. Whilst both dogs are immensely brave search dogs, they still don’t like fireworks on Bonfire Night. He recommends familiarising your dog with their new hiding space a few days before they’re likely to need to use it: “It’s important they aren’t scared by the new hidey-hole and have the opportunity to get used to this new spot.
“Clear space in an under stairs cupboard or a table draped with a blanket with their bed tucked inside works well. If you use a cage, drape a blanket over this instead. A hand full of doggy treats will always go a long way to help your doggy chum to settle.
“Favourite treats or toys are a good distraction from the noise outside too.”
Sadly it is not only companion animals that are affected by fireworks. Farm animals can be easily frightened by loud noises and sudden flashes of bright light, which can startle them and cause them to injure themselves on fencing, farm or other outdoor equipment. The same goes for wildlife, who can also be burnt alive after making their home in bonfires. Always build bonfires on the day they are going to be lit, and not before, to ensure hedgehogs and other animals don’t climb in.
More advice and a video showing how to make a ‘doggie safe den’ is available on the RSPCA website.
*Based on research commissioned by the RSPCA and conducted by the University of Bristol in 2005.