Pet Safety on Bonfire Night
Now we can finally get together again, there is likely to be a large increase in at home firework displays, making pet safety on Bonfire Night more challenging than ever. Pet owners who usually go to great lengths to keep their pets calm for one or two local displays may now be exposed to many more. Fireworks are terrifying and can cause injury to pets, livestock and wildlife.
Thousands of animals are affected by unplanned and random fireworks each year including 62% of dogs, 54% of cats and 55% of horses. That number is very likely to increase this year due to an increase in firework displays. Fireworks can be purchased from 15th October to 10th November and the lack of organised displays may increase the nights they are actually used around this time.
Tips for a display that is less distressing
If you must have an at home fireworks display please follow these guidelines to reduce risk to animals:
- Set off fireworks only on 5th of November to allow animal owners to be prepared.
- Opt for low noise fireworks.
- Let your neighbours know of your intentions well in advance.
- Build bonfires as close to lighting as possible so you know there are no animals hiding inside.
- Dispose of any debris safely after it has cooled down.
- Never set off fireworks near livestock.
- Never set off fireworks at known wildlife habitats.
The British Horse Society reports 20 deaths, 10 severe injuries, and 88 mild to moderate injuries in horses in fireworks incidents since 2010.
Tips for a pet owner
- Give your pet somewhere to hide they can access at all times – under furniture is good for this.
- Let your pet pace around, whine, miaow – whatever they feel they have to do to get through it.
- Stay calm, act normally and give lots of praise for calm behaviour. It’s OK to cuddle and stroke your pet if it helps them relax, but if they prefer to hide under your bed, then let them do this instead.
- Avoid leaving your pet alone during such potentially upsetting events. If you do have to leave the house, don’t get angry with your pet if you find they have been destructive or toileted after being left on its own. Shouting at a frightened pet will only make them more stressed.
- Make sure your pet can’t escape, ensure they are microchipped so even if they do run off in panic they can be traced back to you.
- Walk dogs during daylight, keep dogs & cats indoors at night when fireworks may be set off
- At nightfall close windows, curtains & play music to mask firework sounds
- Bring outdoor hutches inside if possible, if not possible give the pet extra bedding to burrow in and turn their hutch to face a wall or fence.
This checklist from PDSA is handy to check you have thought of everything you can do to keep your pet safe during Bonfire Night.
How to help a pet with severe phobias
Pets that are scared of fireworks and other loud noises can be treated for their fear using behavioural training. It takes time and patience, but can really help your pet. Speak to your vet about your pet’s fear of loud noises. They’ll thoroughly check there isn’t a medical reason for their stress e.g. thyroid disease.
Owners sometimes ask vets to prescribe medications for their pet. Some drugs that were once popular, such as sedatives or tranquillisers, are no longer used because they don’t reduce fear, just an animal’s ability to respond. This can make a pet’s fear of fireworks even worse. However, there are products licensed for use with fireworks phobias that may help to reduce anxiety without just sedating pets. Speak to your vet about whether this is appropriate for your pet.
The laws concerning fireworks
- It is illegal for anyone under 18 to possess a firework in a public place
- Fireworks cannot be set off by a private individual between 11.00pm and 7.00am except for certain nights of the year such as 5th of November when the cut off is midnight.
- It is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any captive or domestic animal
- Unless retailers possess a special licence they may only sell fireworks from 15 October to 10 November and 26 to 31 December
While this information is correct at the time of publishing all pet owners are advised to check government legislation for current guidelines.