Fireworks can be great fun and exciting for most people, but for a lot of animals, fireworks are terrifying. SPCAs around New Zealand receive lots of calls about fireworks involving animal injuries, frightened animals, missing animals and occasionally, abuse of animals.
Around the New Year and Guy Fawkes time, all animal guardians need to take extra care to ensure their furry companions are still having all their needs met.
Below is a list of tips for how you can keep animals safe during the firework season:
Unfortunately when fireworks are sold, there is no set day for them to be used, making it really hard for guardians (owners) to know when to expect an evening filled with booming, cracking, screeching and flashing!
Responsible animal guardians must be prepared at all times during the months of October, November, December and January, to limit the amount of fear and distress their animals suffer.
If you have a really scared animal, ask your parent or caregiver to speak to your animal’s veterinarian before Guy Fawkes night, over whether calming medicine would be suitable.
Make sure your animal companions are indoors throughout the evening and that they can’t see or hear the fireworks.
Take your dog to the toilet before locking them inside, or if you have a cat, remember to put kitty litter in the room they are staying in.
Your family should never take your dog to a fireworks display. Even if he/she doesn’t bark or whimper at the noise, it doesn’t mean he/she is happy. Excessive panting and yawning can sometimes indicate that your dog is stressed.
Inside doors, curtains and blinds, should be closed, as this will help muffle the sound of fireworks and prevent your pets being scared by the lights.
It is a good idea to switch on the radio, television or stereo to distract your animals from the sound of fireworks. If there is no human present to look after the animals, it can help to leave the radio or television on for them.
Your family could consider providing your dog with a kong, treat-ball or long-lasting treat. Extended chewing will help calm dogs and stimulation will distract them.
Prepare a ‘den’ for your animal where they can feel safe and comfortable – perhaps under a bed with some of your old clothes. They may like to hide there when the fireworks start.
If a frightened animal hides under furniture or in a cupboard, don’t try to get them out, you will only be adding to their distress. Allow the animal to hide and speak calmly to them, allowing them to come out in their own time.
It is natural for animals to be afraid of loud noises. The booms, bangs and crackles of fireworks trigger their nervous systems, and they can become anxious or afraid.
Running away from such noises is a survival instinct for most animals. To keep them safe, close all gates, windows and doors, and block off cat doors/flaps to stop animals escaping and running away in fright.
Ensure your animal’s microchip details and council registration details are up-to-date and that your cat or dog is wearing a collar/ID tag with your current phone number. In case your animals do manage to escape, the likelihood of them being reunited with your family will be much greater.
If you have an animal and don’t need to go to a Guy Fawkes party, think about staying home to reassure and comfort your companion animal.
Alternatively, find a reliable person who will stay with your animal(s) and look after them in their familiar surroundings. You could also take them to the home of someone you know who will look after them and be there to reassure them when the fireworks start.
Small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats and birds all need to be treated with special care when fireworks are being let off. These animals are easily frightened.
Do not punish your animal for any damage/bad behaviour they may exhibit during an evening of fireworks booming and banging. Being fearful is an emotional and natural response that an animal cannot control.
Your family should make sure your dog or cat has a collar on with up to date contact details - or better yet - get your pet microchipped. If they are already microchipped, make sure your contact details are up to date and correct, just in case they are panicked by the fireworks and get out. A microchip means the likelihood of them being reunited with your family will be much greater.
People organising fireworks displays should let their neighbours know in advance. Put flyers in neighbour’s letter boxes. This will alert them to the need to make arrangements for their animals.
Firework party organisers should use fireworks which explode close to the ground and don’t make particularly loud bangs or screeches. These are likely to cause less distress to animals.
Farm animal guardians (owners) should move their animals away from areas where firework parties are likely to take place. They should do this well in advance so that the animals have a chance to get used to their new surroundings.
Guardians of farm animals must also check that paddocks are well fenced and secure before the fireworks start. Frightened farm animals that get out of their paddocks can harm themselves and can also cause road accidents.