RSPCA Cymru has renewed calls to restrict the private use of fireworks to particular dates in a bid to reduce the fear and distress caused to many animals throughout the year.
Limiting the use of fireworks to agreed traditional dates – such as Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali – would be “good news” for animals, according to the charity’s welfare experts.
RSPCA Cymru also believes reducing the noise of fireworks available for sale to the public, and providing more information to the public about licensed displays, could protect animals.
Fireworks regulation is due to be discussed by Members of Parliament today (29 January), in a debate led by Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones. The UK parliamentary debate was triggered after a petition – started by a member of public – attracted over 100,000 signatures.
Many animals – of all shapes and sizes – find fireworks frightening. The sudden loud noises and bright flashing lights commonly associated with fireworks can be very frightening for animals. Estimates suggest 45 percent of the UK’s dogs show signs of fear and distress when they hear fireworks.
It is feared that two injured stray dogs collected by the RSPCA in Caerphilly on New Year’s Day was a consequence of both being frightened by late-night fireworks as Wales celebrated the arrival of 2018.
RSPCA companion animal welfare expert Lisa Hens said: “Fireworks can lead to serious welfare concerns for many animals, so we give a warm welcome to this important debate.
“Animals affected by fireworks not only suffer psychological distress but can also cause themselves injuries, sometimes very serious ones, as they attempt to run or hide from the noise. Ensuring these displays always fall on dates like Guy Fawkes Night, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali would be good news for animals.
“The RSPCA fully supports calls to restrict the display of fireworks by the general public to certain traditional dates in the calendar.
“We hope to see as many MPs as possible attending this important debate, and arguing in favour of animals by supporting changes to the laws currently regulating fireworks.”
While the topic of the privately-introduced petition has slightly different aims to the RSPCA, it has nevertheless created a welcome opportunity for decision-makers to debate the frequency of firework displays, and the impact current regulation has on animals, and their welfare.
RSPCA Cymru supports moves to reduce the maximum permitted noise level for fireworks for public sale to 97 decibels. Fireworks louder than this would only be used for licensed public displays. The charity also believes all public fireworks displays should be licensed by the local authority, with information about the display made available in the local area – providing animal owners with more time to plan and prepare.
Across Wales, in 2017, the RSPCA received 18 calls in relation to people concerned about fireworks – and has received 111 calls over the last five years. In England and Wales, the number of calls between 2013 and 2017 totalled 1,594.
Under the current legal framework, fireworks displays can be held every day of the year. Existing regulations forbid fireworks being used between 11pm and 7am, with some exceptions, while those with a noise level exceeding 120 decibels cannot currently be sold to the public.
Ms Hens said: “Firework phobia is a treatable condition – and there’s many steps owners can take to make the experience less scary for their pet.
“But planning ahead is often key in keeping animals safe and well during fireworks displays – so having set days where displays can take place is obviously vital in ensuring people know when they have to take such extra precautions.
“Decision-makers could also reduce the maximum permitted noise level of fireworks for public sale to 97 decibels, comparable with the sound of a slamming door. Fireworks louder than this should only be used for licensed public displays.”
Unfortunately, it is not just pets 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 equipment or, in the case of housed animals, on fixtures and fittings.
It is also likely that fireworks will cause a disturbance to wild animals such as waterfowl and is likely to cause suffering or distress, depending on the distance from the fireworks and the noise level. Wildlife can also be burnt alive after making their home in bonfires, so always check for animals beforehand.
Ms Hens added: “By licensing all public displays, and ensuring information about the event is made available to the local community, more can be done to help keep all animals safe during fireworks. Clearly, more needs to be done to protect animals from the unnecessary fear and suffering that fireworks regularly cause.”
The RSPCA offers advice to owners about keeping pets safe and happy when fireworks are being let off. Should you wish to help the RSPCA help animals in need, you can donate online.