What's the issue?
As animals have more acute hearing than humans, many show stress, fear, or even phobia responses to loud and high-pitched noises.
Loud and high-pitched fireworks can cause stress or fear responses across a range of species, including companion animals, wildlife, horses, livestock, and zoo animals.
It is estimated that 45% of dogs show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. The PDSA 2018 PAW report highlights that 51% of veterinary professionals said that they have seen an increase in pets with phobias such as fireworks in the last 2 years and 40% of dog owners (3.6 million dogs) report that their dog is afraid of fireworks.
Debris and remnants of fireworks can also pose a risk to the health and welfare of livestock and wildlife.
What's our view?
Current controls on the use and sale of fireworks don't go far enough to protect the health and welfare of animals in the UK. Easy access to fireworks is putting the UK's animals at risk of avoidable pain, suffering, and fear.
In our responses to the 2019 House of Commons Petitions Committee (306 KB PDF) and fireworks inquiries, we called on the UK governments to (331 KB PDF):
- reduce the noise limit of fireworks for public use and sale to 97 decibels at 15 metres,
- clearly label fireworks to indicate their noise level to consumers, eg ‘low noise firework’ or ‘loud firework’;
- restrict the private use of fireworks to agreed traditional dates, eg Bonfire Night (5 November), New Year, Chinese New Year, and Diwali. This would bring controls on use in line with controls on sale, which requires retailers to have a licence to sell fireworks outside of these traditional dates;
- restrict the sale of fireworks around Bonfire Night, similar to those for other traditional dates set out in fireworks legislation;
- introduce licensing of all public displays and organised events using fireworks;
- improve awareness of the potential negative impact of fireworks on animal health and welfare through government communication channels; and
- update guidance on the responsible use of fireworks to highlight the potential negative impact of fireworks on animal health and welfare.
We advise pet owners and animal keepers who are concerned about how their animal may react to fireworks to consult their vet as early as possible. Vets will be able to advise on evidence-based therapies for fear or stress responses, or refer clients to an animal behaviourist.