In the UK, the pet owning community is petitioning Parliament to debate the reduction in the number of firework displays throughout the year to a maximum of four and the maximum permitted noise level of fireworks on public sale to be reduced from 120 dB (equivalent to a jet aircraft taking off at hundred metres), to 96 dB.
The RSPCA is backing an online petition started by Julie Doorne, which has reached over 100,000 signatories ,enough to force parliament to debate it. It’s a great petition but I am a little disappointed in the government’s response thus far (I nearly always am).
The response from government so far is poor probably because it supports business over the interests of companion animals which is not unusual for politicians:
“Although there is some use of fireworks outside the traditional periods, we believe that the majority of people who use fireworks do so at the appropriate times of year and have a sensible and responsible attitude towards them. There are no plans at the moment to place further limitations on their use.”
They are wrong as usual and disconnected from the public and their wishes.
Thousands of cats and dogs are distressed by fireworks every year. I totally agree with Julie when she said:
“The use of fireworks is getting out of control – while no one would want to stop people having fun or celebrating special dates like New Year’s Eve, the celebrations are going on for weeks during autumn and winter.”
The use of fireworks has increased tremendously over the last 20 years. There are far more private firework displays than ever before. It is these private displays which are causing problems amongst the pet owning community. The petition calls for the private use of fireworks to be restricted to 4 days where they have special significance either religious or culturally: November 5 (Bonfire Night), New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali. If Parliament passes legislation reflecting the desires of the supporters of this petition (highly unlikely) then it would mean families would be banned from hosting firework parties at weekends around Halloween and Bonfire Night when November 5 fell on a weekday. Parliament will debate this petition on 6 June 2016.
We are told by the RSPCA that 45% of dogs are fearful of fireworks. Fireworks makes their lives miserable. I am convinced that a very similar percentage of cats suffer in the same way. It is important for cat and dog owners to know when fireworks will be set off so that they can make plans and preparations to help their pets cope.
I’ve always felt, by the way, that people who set of fireworks in dense urban neighbourhoods are very selfish. They cannot have companion animals themselves and they ignore the effect that their pleasure is likely to cause distress amongst animals owned by their neighbours. Last year I had to remonstrate with neighbours living almost a mile away because of the excessive use of fireworks.
In addition, farm animals are affected. They can easily be frightened by loud noises and sudden flashes of bright light which startles them and which can lead to injuries. In addition wildlife is also affected. There are not infrequently cases of wild animals being burnt alive after making their home in bonfires.
To stress, the problem is the proliferation of private firework displays by individuals, in their back gardens, around the usual times when fireworks are set off which greatly extends the period through which pet owners and their pets have to suffer. It is a great irritation to cat and dog owners.
The RSPCA’s campaign manager said:
“The RSPCA believes the Fireworks Act 2003 and the Fireworks Regulations 2004 don’t go far enough. We want to see the government take advantage of this by strengthening the existing acts and restricting the use of fireworks to traditional dates of the year like Bonfire Night.”
You might think that this is the wrong time of the year to write about restricting the number of firework parties that take place in the UK. I don’t believe it is the wrong time. It is the right time because it is too late when the fireworks season is upon us, later in the year.
How to Protect Pets from Noise
The RSPCA recommend that owners of cats and dogs make sure that their companion animals have somewhere to hide such as under furniture or perhaps in a cupboard. They also state that it may be advisable to put individual cats and dogs who are inherently more calm with a cat or dog who is distressed because it can offset the stress.
They also recommend that music can help to drown out the loud noises. Owners can play with a toy to see if the dog wants to join in. This may distract the dog. Keeping dogs and cats in, in the evenings, is also advisable when fireworks are being set off.
It goes without saying that scared pets whose behaviour as a result may be difficult for the owner to accept should not punish the companion animal. That just makes things worse. They also recommend that it is possible to teach your puppy how to be less scared of fireworks by gradually exposing him/her to records of different noises. The sounds can be downloaded from the Dogs Trust website.
I don’t know how bad fireworks are in the USA. I suspect that they are not as bad as they are in the UK. In the UK, as mentioned, there has been a gradual but quite distinct increase as reflected by an increase of 50% of phone calls to the RSPCA over the period 2011 to 2015. The RSPCA has received almost 1,500 calls from worried owners over the preceding five years.
The source of this information comes from the Times newspaper which was slightly misleading and the government website.