RSPCA Cymru fears this fireworks season could be 'worst in decades' for pets

The RSPCA Cymru has said it fears this fireworks season could be "the worst in decades for animals" as the coronavirus pandemic could mean more home displays.

Organised Bonfire Night fireworks displays in Wales have been cancelled this year due to the pandemic and the firebreak lockdown.

In Wales, 21% of adults polled said they were planning a private display.

The RSPCA receives hundreds of calls about fireworks affecting animals every year.

A recent poll identified that 23% of Welsh residents have or used to have an animal that has been mentally injured as a result of fireworks.

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.

"Due to the firebreak lockdown measures this year, there won’t be any organised, public displays in Wales and we suspect this means lots of families will be choosing to have their own displays at home. 

"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.

“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.”

Fiji the dog had to cower behind furniture due to fear from fireworks Credit: RSPCA Cymru

In 2019 the RSPCA Cymru launched its #BangOutOfOrder campaign, calling for tighter controls and regulations around the sale and use of fireworks in a bid to help people and animals who suffer with fireworks phobias and noise aversion.

The campaign calls for a range of actions, including:

  • 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 - 120 decibels (equivalent to a jet aircraft taking off) - should only be used at licensed public displays, the RSPCA believes.

  • 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.

  • Fireworks to be labelled as 'loud' or 'low noise' to allow consumers to make an informed decision if they do buy fireworks.

Dog Ava was so seriously distressed by fireworks she wet the bed Credit: RSPCA Cymru

Dr Kennedy said it was not only dogs who could be terrified by fireworks but also horses and livestock.

He said: "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. 

“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.”