Pets and fireworks: start preparing now
New RSPCA polling shows the majority of owners have witnessed signs of distress in their animals during firework season. With just under a month to go, it's time to start getting ready to make the experience as bearable as possible.
While stats show almost two-thirds (63%) of animal owners surveyed reported that their pet appeared distressed during firework season, 69% of owners had taken at least one measure to help relax or prepare their animal at this time of year. Playing relaxing music was the most common (36%) along with taking the animal elsewhere (29%).
RSPCA animal welfare expert Dr Mark Kennedy said, “Whilst it’s upsetting to see so many animals are needlessly struggling at this time of year it is positive to see owners taking measures to prepare their animals. In line with the survey, lots of RSPCA centres have sound systems in their kennels and play classical music to the dogs to help keep them calm.
“Last year for the first time the RSPCA launched an online reporting survey for owners to report fireworks negatively impacting animals in their area - it received more than 11,000 responses - so we know this is a widespread problem. However, there are some crucial steps you can take to minimise the impact on your pets such as creating a calm environment and a safe space to go to.
“We know this season also impacts wildlife and livestock including horses who can get spooked by fireworks being let off in neighbouring fields and gardens. Sadly this can lead to injury and in some cases even death. We would really encourage people planning on holding firework displays to be mindful of animals in your surroundings and to be courteous to neighbours to let them know what to expect.
“Our survey showed that the majority (82%) of people agree fireworks should be restricted near wildlife spots, farms and animal sanctuaries. If you have concern for the welfare of your animal we would always recommend talking to your vet who will, if necessary, be able to refer you to a professional clinical animal behaviourist.”
RSPCA dog welfare expert and behaviourist Esme Wheeler added, “Several studies have shown that auditory stimulation - playing calming sounds and music - can have an effect on the physiology and behaviour of dogs in rehoming and rescue environments and, at least in the short term, it is suggested that classical music may be beneficial in helping reduce stress for dogs in kennels.”
The polling also showed almost half (48%) of UK adults strongly agree that fireworks should be restricted to traditional dates - something the RSPCA has long campaigned for.
Campaigns manager at the RSPCA Carrie Stones said, “The RSPCA would like to see the UK Government follow the lead of Scotland and introduce legislation to limit the sale of fireworks from 29th October to the 5th November with further restrictions to limit the days they can be let off.
“While firework regulation is not devolved to Wales, it is encouraging that the Welsh Government has spoken proactively about the need to act against irresponsible firework use too. We would also like to see a reduction in the maximum noise level permitted in fireworks for public sale to 90dB.
“We know the public are behind us on this and that some supermarkets and councils have already taken the lead by only selling low noise fireworks and permitting displays only on certain days. The suffering faced by animals each year is needless and I hope that by continuing our campaign we can put a stop to the fireworks fright night felt across the country each year.”
RSPCA top tips to help keep your animal calm
• Play relaxing music to obscure sounds of fireworks
• Provide your dog or cat with a safe haven - Create a doggy den in a quiet area of the house and make it a special safe place by placing tasty treats and favourite toys inside. Make sure your cats always have access to plenty of places around the house to hide.
• Pheromone diffusers - Speak to your vet about using a calming collar or diffuser which disperses calming pheromones which may help your dog or cat feel more secure.
• Introduce changes to your animal’s routine slowly - It’s sensible to keep your horse in a familiar environment, following their normal routine with their usual companions. If you’re planning to bring your horse or livestock into a stable or barn overnight during fireworks, start to introduce the change of routine now to get them used to being in. We recommend walking dogs during daylight during fireworks season so if this is different to your normal routine, begin to alter the time of your pet’s walk to get them gradually used to it.
• Provide extra bedding - Rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals who live outside should have extra bedding to burrow into or you can cover their housing with a blanket for extra sound-proofing. Begin to introduce this now.
• Bringing pets inside - If you’re planning to bring them indoors to better protect them then start to make this change ahead of fireworks night to get them used to the new sights, smells and sounds inside.
• Speak to neighbours and organisers - If you want to plan for dates of local displays then check local press and websites and speak to your neighbours and local councils/schools etc to find out dates ahead of time so you can plan now to help your animal. Ask organisers to site fireworks well away from your horse and aimed in the opposite direction.
• Soundproof your house - Simple steps like closing windows and curtains can help your house seem safer to your pet so begin doing this now if it’s different to normal to get your pet used to it.
• Start desensitising them to sounds - Teach your pet to deal with the sounds by using training CDs. We recommend Sounds Scary which comes with guidance on how to use it. You can also muffle the sound of fireworks for dogs and other pets by using calming music like classical playlists - start to introduce this now. This is a long-term approach so may be worth starting now ahead of next year.
• Get help - If your pet has a severe fireworks fear then speak to your vet now to come up with a plan or to discuss whether there are any treatment options to help them. If necessary, your vet can refer you to a professional clinical animal behaviourist.