Are we hypocrites with our dogs? We love them, cherish them, then terrify them with fireworks every year.
Current laws state that it is illegal to set fireworks off between 11pm and 7am, with the exception of Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve, Diwali, and Chinese New Year. However, a petition to the UK Government which has been signed by 305,579 people on the UK Parliament’s website is calling for change on these regulations. It is clear that very strong public feeling exists on this issue of fireworks and that this is a problem which resonates with many people. The petition is not requesting a total ban on fireworks but, instead, want to introduce new laws surrounding fireworks to protect animal welfare. On 5 November (coincidental timing?) the government responded to the petition, stating that: “We believe that the majority of people who use fireworks do so appropriately and have a sensible and responsible attitude towards them. We consider it a minority of people who use fireworks in a dangerous, inconsiderate or anti-social manner.”
Fireworks are used by people to mark a variety of events throughout the year and many people love them; the pretty colours in the night sky, the thrill of a gunpowder blast, the warmth of a bonfire. Fiery sparks whip the sky and brilliant inks of light on a canvas of stars burst through the sky. Some shoot straight up before exploding, others whirl in a spiral, some shatter into thousands of sparks, others tumble like a waterfall or float in a glittering silver shower.
But while fireworks may look pretty, the incessant roar of fireworks induce an unimaginable level of stress on our beloved pets and wildlife.
Similar to humans, animals are instinctively scared of loud, sudden noises. For dogs, this can lead to them howling, hiding, pacing, panting and pining. However, unlike humans, dogs are unable to understand that the world is not coming to an end but rather it is fireworks that they hear. As a result, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) wants fireworks to be used only four times a year - Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year, and Diwali.
Claire McParland, Government Relations Manager at RSPCA, said: “We are urging the UK Government to act on this strength of feeling, which would support owners to help their animals cope at this time of year.” The charity has also called for public firework displays to be advertised in advance and for fireworks to be made quieter in order to decrease the number of animals left terrified. Since 2014, the RSPCA have received 2,285 calls about fireworks, with 411 calls in 2018 alone.
We must remember to be mindful of animals at this time of year as this incident really does show what impact fireworks can have. This year, on the 2 November, a terrier puppy named Molly sadly died from a heart attack in North Yorkshire after she became distressed from loud fireworks nearby. The puppy was just 18 weeks old.
Thankfully, there has been an increase in attempts to help decrease the effects of fireworks on dogs. For example, Sainsbury’s, the second-largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom, decided to stop selling fireworks this year in all 2,300 of its stores. The decision has been well-received by the public, with many applauding the move and asking other stores to follow suit - putting safety before profit. Whitelee Windfarm, the UK’s largest onshore wind farm which is located just 20 minutes from Central Glasgow, organised “Nae Fireworks Night” to enable people to escape the fireworks during Bonfire weekend to walk their dogs in peace and was hailed as a ‘’godsend’’ for anxious dogs.
In my opinion, fireworks are unnecessarily stressful for dogs and are outdated, dangerous method of celebration. There should be a more stringent regulation of fireworks including strict times and days when they are permitted to occur. I have a dog and it can be hugely distressing to him if fireworks are set off when we are on a walk. We are all quick enough to post photos of our dogs and fireworks on social media, but never together. Perhaps we should post a photo of our terrified, shivering dogs on Bonfire Night? But then again, that would not be very Instagrammable.
Fireworks are, quite simply, bang out of order.