New RSPCA report urges government to restrict use of fireworks

The RSPCA has released a new report highlighting the stress fireworks cause to animals, to coincide with the start of bonfire season.

The charity would like to see the public sale and use of fireworks further limited to being close to four specific celebration and festival dates (November 5, December 31, Chinese New Year and Diwali).

There should also be a noise restriction on the maximum level of decibels fireworks can reach and all public firework displays should be licensed and advertised in advance, the charity says.

Figures from the RSPCA show hundreds of calls from concerned animal lovers – about animals including alpacas and an African grey parrot as well as dogs and horses – are made about fireworks every year to the charity.

Since 2014 the charity has received 2,285 calls about fireworks, with 411 of these calls last year alone.

RSPCA government relations manager Claire McParland said: “We see the impact of fireworks on animals every year and we know there is a strong public feeling about the use of fireworks with more than 100,000 signing petitions to restrict their use in recent years.

“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. There is current legislation in place, but the RSPCA believes the Fireworks Act 2003 and the Fireworks Regulations 2004 don’t go far enough.

“The public can help by visiting our website and writing to their local council to request restrictions on fireworks on a local level.”

An RSPCA survey carried out this month found that 62% of dog owners said their animals showed signs of distress during the fireworks season, and 54% of cat owners also reported their animals were showing signs of distress.

This means potentially thousands of animals’ lives are made a misery by fireworks every year. Of all people polled, 76% agreed with the RSPCA’s policy that fireworks should be restricted to traditional dates and 85% said they thought public firework displays should be licenced and advertised before taking place.

Sadly, it’s not just cats and dogs and other household pets that are affected by fireworks. Horses and farm animals can easily be frightened by loud noises and sudden flashes of bright light, which can startle them and cause them to injure themselves on fencing, equipment or, in the case of stabled or housed animals, on fixtures and fittings within their enclosures.

Wildlife can also be burned after making their home in bonfires so people should always check the pile for animals before lighting them.

Dr Mark Kennedy, RSPCA equine specialist said: “Our advice would be to check for any firework displays planned locally and ask organisers to site fireworks well away from your house and aimed in the opposite direction. If your horse is staying in their field, check the fencing is secure and there are no dangerous objects they could collide with if startled.

“If stabled, ensure hay nets are secure so your horse can’t get caught up. You should stay with your horse if you know fireworks are going to be set off but do be aware of your own safety – a startled horse can be dangerous.”

Although it is possible for vets to manage firework phobias in some species, such as dogs, the RSPCA believes if animal owners knew when to expect fireworks it would help them to prepare their animals so they would be better able to cope.

This year, the RSPCA has contributed evidence to an inquiry set up by the UK Parliament’s Petitions Committee to look into fireworks as a result of public feeling.

The charity has also met with the British Fireworks Association, as well as various organisations at a local level including Rotary clubs to spread the message that fireworks cause stress to animals.

For more information and resources about how to reduce stress in animals during fireworks season you can visit www.rspca.org.uk/fireworks.