RSPCA fears for nervous animals as more families plan home firework displays under lockdown

The RSPCA say this year's fireworks season could be the worst in decades for nervous animals as families celebrate at home instead of attending public events.
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Every year, the RSPCA receives hundreds of calls about fireworks affecting animals, with a total of 1,543 calls about fireworks logged in the last four years.

But they fear this year will be the worst on record for nervous pets and wildlife due to more people opting to set off fireworks at home due to lockdown.

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This is why the charity has launched its #BangOutOfOrder campaign, calling for tighter controls around the sale and use of fireworks in a bid to help people and animals who suffer with fireworks phobias and noise aversion.

The RSPCA say: "We’d urge people to be considerate and keep neighbours with animals, including those with nearby horses and other livestock, informed of plans well in advance so they can make preparations to reduce the stress to their animals."The RSPCA say: "We’d urge people to be considerate and keep neighbours with animals, including those with nearby horses and other livestock, informed of plans well in advance so they can make preparations to reduce the stress to their animals."
The RSPCA say: "We’d urge people to be considerate and keep neighbours with animals, including those with nearby horses and other livestock, informed of plans well in advance so they can make preparations to reduce the stress to their animals."

The RSPCA campaign is calling for:

- The restriction of the private use of fireworks to agreed traditional dates (November 5, New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali).

- The maximum permitted noise level of fireworks for public sale to be reduced to 90 decibels. The current allowed level is 120 decibels (equivalent to a jet aircraft taking off) and should only be used at licensed public displays.

- The RSPCA would also like to see fireworks labelled as 'loud' or 'low noise' to allow consumers to make an informed decision if they do buy fireworks.

Ava, a usually happy Staffie, was found collapsed on a bed, hyperventilating and surrounded by splatters of blood after she was spooked by fireworks outside her home.Ava, a usually happy Staffie, was found collapsed on a bed, hyperventilating and surrounded by splatters of blood after she was spooked by fireworks outside her home.
Ava, a usually happy Staffie, was found collapsed on a bed, hyperventilating and surrounded by splatters of blood after she was spooked by fireworks outside her home.
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- All public fireworks displays to be licensed by the relevant licensing authority and information about the proposed display must be provided in the local area several weeks in advance with a process for local residents to appeal against the granting of the licence. This process would also apply to people seeking to hold private displays at special events such as weddings.

How much support is there for this campaign?

The RSPCA said their polling found 85% of UK adults think public firework displays should be licensed, adding that there has been wide public support for private displays to be limited to specific dates to reduce the impact on people and animals who find fireworks frightening and stressful.

But animal welfare experts fear this support from a sympathetic and animal-loving public could go out of the window this year as lockdown prompts the cancellation of public displays and families choose to set off fireworks at home instead.

Ava's owner Julie said: "Ava had clearly been incredibly shocked and frightened by the fireworks and, in her panic, had cut herself. It was heartbreaking to have seen her in such a state."Ava's owner Julie said: "Ava had clearly been incredibly shocked and frightened by the fireworks and, in her panic, had cut herself. It was heartbreaking to have seen her in such a state."
Ava's owner Julie said: "Ava had clearly been incredibly shocked and frightened by the fireworks and, in her panic, had cut herself. It was heartbreaking to have seen her in such a state."

What do the experts say?

RSPCA animal welfare expert Dr Mark Kennedy said: "We understand that people enjoy celebrating Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve and other key dates with fireworks and we don’t want to spoil the fun.

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"Unfortunately, lockdown measures this year mean that very few organised, public displays are likely to go ahead and we suspect this means lots of families will be choosing to have their own displays at home.

"Due to the Rule of Six and the restrictions on households mixing, we fear that there will be lots of little displays taking place over weeks and weeks, spreading out fireworks noise and causing prolonged distress for animals.

Last November, RSPCA officers were called out to Bryn Celyn in Wales to help a horse called Harry (pictured above) who had been found impaled on a fence post after being spooked by fireworks. He needed emergency veterinary treatment.Last November, RSPCA officers were called out to Bryn Celyn in Wales to help a horse called Harry (pictured above) who had been found impaled on a fence post after being spooked by fireworks. He needed emergency veterinary treatment.
Last November, RSPCA officers were called out to Bryn Celyn in Wales to help a horse called Harry (pictured above) who had been found impaled on a fence post after being spooked by fireworks. He needed emergency veterinary treatment.

"We’d urge people to be considerate and keep neighbours with animals, including those with nearby horses and other livestock, informed of plans well in advance so they can make preparations to reduce the stress to their animals."

In an RSPCA poll, only 49% of UK adults said they think about the impact fireworks can have on local animals, but 71% did agree that the noise from fireworks can negatively impact their welfare.

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Another 21% of UK adults reported owning, knowing or having heard about an animal that had tragically died as a result of fireworks.

Dr Mark Kennedy added: "Fireworks are extremely stressful and frightening for lots of animals. But they can also cause very serious injury and even death to some.

"It can be particularly dangerous for horses and livestock who can be spooked by the loud bangs and bright flashes of light, putting them at risk of injuring themselves on fencing, farm equipment or fixtures and fittings within their housing.

"The British Horse Society reports 23 deaths and 166 injuries in horses due to fireworks incidents since 2010.

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"Wildlife can also be seriously impacted by bonfires and fireworks. Wild animals, like hedgehogs, are at risk of being burnt alive after making their homes inside bonfires and piles of leaves, while some birds will flee their nests or whole colonies can disappear due to noise disturbance."

Case study: Ava the Staffie puppy

When Julie Lumley-Pistor and her husband went out on the evening of August 22, leaving their two dogs at home, they had no concerns.

They certainly didn’t expect fireworks to frighten their usually happy Staffie, Ava (pictured), who finds fireworks season very stressful.

"It was the middle of summer, we never expected fireworks to be going off!” Julie said. They left at 7pm to visit a neighbour’s home for dinner.

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"Our dogs had been walked, fed and had play time and were to be home for around two hours until my daughter returned from work," Julie said.

"At around 8.30pm some extremely loud fireworks were let off from a nearby house as part of a birthday celebration. The display was very short but a couple of the fireworks were extremely loud, shaking the windows.

"When our daughter returned home at around 9.15pm she found Ava collapsed on the bed, hyperventilating and surrounded by splatters of blood (pictured).

"We returned home right away and spent almost two hours calming her down and getting her breathing back to normal.

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"Ava had clearly been incredibly shocked and frightened by the fireworks and, in her panic, had cut herself. It was heartbreaking to have seen her in such a state."

If you'd like to support the #BangOutOfOrder campaign, you can visit the RSPCA website.

Tips on how to help animals cope with fireworks are available here and seasonable advice for animals in the autumn here.

If you’re planning your own fireworks display, you can keep animals in mind by following the RSPCA advice here.

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