Some tips for keeping your pets safe from fireworks
Next Friday - 5th November - is Bonfire Night here in the UK - a time when folks gather together, light fires, burn effigies and let off fireworks to commemorate a foiled plot by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Some argue that the trend for lighting fires at this time of year is also derived from the earlier Gaelic festival of Samhain, but - whatever the reasons - our pets definitely don’t care. They’re more concerned about the unexpected flashes and bangs going on outside the window than who is lighting them and why. Unfortunately as November 5th is in close proximity to Halloween on 31st October, people seem to be letting off fireworks for days, from the weekend before to the weekend after, so it’s important to be prepared and plan ahead to make sure your pets will be OK during what can often be a very distressing time.
In recent years, more restrictions have been brought in to control firework misuse. Local councils urge people to go to official, organised displays rather than letting them off at home and this year, many supermarkets are only selling silent fireworks - or simply aren’t selling them at all. But despite all this, you can be sure some people will still be letting them off without any consideration for others.
Dog at the window photo by Mark Zamora on Unsplash
The RSPCA has shared some advice on how to help your pet through the stress and discomfort that may come at this time of year. Speaking about fireworks, RSPCA campaigns manager, Carrie Stones, said:
“We know that some councils have announced cancellations already this year so we do have concerns that people may hold events in their own gardens.
“While we can prepare our animals for one night of disruption it’s difficult when bonfire night now tends to last for days or weeks either side.”
Cat photo by J Cruikshank on Unsplash
Fireworks and the law
What a lot of people don’t realise is that there are several laws in place in the UK regarding who can buy fireworks and where and when they can use them. So if you see anyone abusing this by selling, purchasing or letting off fireworks illegally, you could report them and reduce the potential impact on your pets.
- Under-18s are not allowed to purchase fireworks and over-18s are subject to restrictions on when they can buy and set off fireworks, to reduce the likelihood of accidents and noise disturbance.
- No one can legally let off fireworks between 11pm and 7am except on Bonfire Night, when they can be let off until midnight and New Years Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year when they may be let off until 1am so if you hear or see any fireworks outside of these times then they are likely being used illegally.
- You can only buy fireworks and sparklers for private use between certain dates – these are between 15thOctober – 10th November, from the 26th – to the 31st December and 3 days leading up to Diwali and Chinese New Year (these do not fall on specific dates but Diwali is around the end of October / beginning of November and lasts for five days. Chinese New Year is always end of January / beginning of February.
Using or selling fireworks illegally carries a big penalty, with a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months imprisonment. Police also have the power to issue an on-the-spot fine of £90.
Sad puppy photo by Bharathi Kannan on Unsplash
Reducing the impact of fireworks on your pets
If your pets tend to suffer at this time of year, here are a few tips for making sure that they are as comfortable as possible:
- Make them a safe space. Create a quiet area for them with toys and treats inside. Choose an area of your home where they can’t see what is happening through the windows and if possible put on a radio or TV to mute the noise there too.
- Walk your dog during daylight hours in order to minimise their chances of being exposed to fireworks. If your dog has not previously been affected by fireworks, seeing them when they are out could potentially cause new problems.
- Keep an eye on the local press and talk to your neighbours so you know where and when displays might be occurring and you are as prepared as possible. Keep your pets safe indoors. Close the curtains, turn on the lights, radio and tv to try to minimise the effects of any lights or noises happening outside.
- Act normal. Don’t fuss over your pet or react to anything going on outside. They will take their lead from you. If you are stressed and angry that people are letting off fireworks near your home, don’t let it show. Do something to take you mind off it and carry on as if nothing is happening. That said, if your dog comes to you for a cuddle, you should comfort them – but don’t hassle them and cuddle them if they don’t want it, let them hide under the bed if that is where they feel safe.
- If your pet is severely frightened of fireworks, then it could be an idea to speak to your vet about possible treatments or preventative measures, including medication or calming pheromone sprays or diffusers that you can use around your home. You could also consult an animal behaviour specialist who can help with training or desensitisation activities, depending on your pet. RSPCA Animal welfare expert, Dr Mark Kennedy, suggests the following:
“Firework phobia is treatable and we recommend seeking advice from your vet if your pet is anxious during fireworks season. If necessary, your vet will be able to refer you to a professional clinical animal behaviourist.
“While it may take time for treatment plans to take effect for some pets with more severe phobias; for others, there are simple steps you can take at home in the weeks leading up to Bonfire Night to help them.”
Where possible always attend an organised display, rather than letting off fireworks at home. Even if your pets appear to be OK with it, your neighbour's might not be.
Got any tips for surviving fireworks night with your pet? As always, let us know in the comments section below.
Main pic: Sad retriever photo by Regine Tholen on Unsplash