Thursday, 3 November 2011

Make Bonfire Night go with a bang, not a whimper

Every November the RSPCA receives calls to its enquiries line asking what we can do about the threat posed to animals by fireworks.

My dog (with me on the photo) was kept in outhouses for the first few months of her life and when she came to us she was a bundle of nerves, especially around loud noises. Although she is much improved, the weeks around 5th November are a miserable time for her and I wish that people would just go to fireworks displays on Bonfire Night itself so at least she would only have one fright night instead of one after another for several days or weeks.

Leaving personal opinions aside, this is a tricky situation. On the one hand, there are lots of people who love fireworks and on the other there are lots of animal lovers who can’t bear to see many animals suffering from fear and distress.

The number of firework-related calls to the RSPCA received between 1 and 8 November increased from 319 in 2009 to a startling 383 in 2010. This is worrying and shows that there are still a great deal of people concerned enough to call us about frightened or hurt animals, and probably many more who wouldn’t think to contact the RSPCA.

The RSPCA has always urged people to go to organised fireworks displays rather than holding their own and I really believe this is the best way to go. After all, they are usually bigger and better than a few fireworks in someone’s garden, and they give pet and livestock owners the chance to prepare in advance and keep their animals safe and as comfortable as possible.

There is also hope in the form of various homeopathic and non-medical treatments for pets which can reduce anxiety.

Please also ‘remember remember’ that it isn’t just household pets that can suffer at this time of year and it is extremely important that people think about the dangers bonfires and fireworks can pose to wild animals. RSPCA wildlife centres often have to treat injured and burned hedgehogs that have been caught in bonfires and we ask that people build fires as late as possible and disturb the fire’s foundations before lighting to give wildlife a chance to escape.

We sometimes forget horses and farm animals too, so please think about animals which are nearby if you are thinking about planning a display. Lots of noise and bright flashes can be very distressing and we do see animals injuring themselves in a desperate attempt to escape.  All you need to do is think twice before holding a display where animals are kept nearby or just let their owners know what your plans are with plenty of notice.

The RSPCA has lots of useful advice on keeping pets safe during fireworks season.

If you do find an animal which is sick or injured please call the RSPCA on 0300 123 4999.

by Sophie Wilkinson

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