Here we share a blog by Carrie Stones, Campaigns Manager at the RSPCA, who explains the danger of fireworks for horses and how we can all help to make Bonfire Night a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone - both two and four-legged.
Fireworks hold a special place in many celebrations, bringing joy to countless people. Like many young children, for my sister and me Bonfire Night was the highlight of our year – I remember tucking my jeans into my Wellies, eager to head outside and enjoy the spectacle that lay ahead.
During our childhood, we were often taught about the dangers that fireworks pose to people. Public safety adverts stay with me now: the young girl holding a spent sparkler, the boy lighting a firework – leading to disastrous consequences.
However, back then I wasn’t aware of the wider impact on animals. Pets, farm animals and wildlife can all be affected by fireworks. Those thunderous explosions have a much darker side, one I witness all too often now, as an adult working with the RSPCA.
I’ve seen so many reports on horses who have been horribly affected by the onslaught of fireworks, their keen senses assaulted and fear ignited within them. I’ve read of horses crashing through fences and ending up on busy roads, the cacophony and blinding flashes of fireworks triggering a frenzy, potentially leading to disastrous collisions. I’ve seen videos of horses literally bouncing off the walls of their stables while their owners work tirelessly, often putting themselves in harm's way to calm them down. These terrified horses are not spared from injury or even death.
Shockingly, the misuse of fireworks is sometimes intentional. Last year alone we received more than 1,000 reports of animals impacted by fireworks, 14 percent of which as a direct result of antisocial behaviour.
But even fireworks lit with the best intentions can affect animals. Private displays, in particular, are erratic and hard to control – leaving neighbours feeling helpless to protect their animals. Over the last two years, more than 12,000 people have shared with us their experiences via our impact reporting surveys, finding that 64 percent of impacted animals were affected by private backyard displays. Some 92 percent of suffering animals' owners had no prior notice, making it impossible for them to prepare for their pets.
I’ve seen so many reports on horses who have been horribly affected by the onslaught of fireworks, their keen senses assaulted and fear ignited within them... we need a safer and more compassionate approach.
Carrie Stones, RSPCA Campaigns Manager
Firework displays are beautiful but we need to take a more compassionate approach for animals.
We recognise that to some fireworks are beautiful, and we don’t want to dampen anyone's pleasure or excitement. But we need a safer and more compassionate approach. We envision a time when the public adopts a more thoughtful and considerate attitude towards fireworks demonstrations, especially how they impact our animal friends.
To reinforce this, we’re calling on the UK Government to follow in Scotland's footsteps to introduce tighter legislation. For more than two decades, we’ve been working with councils in England and Wales to ignite a profound transformation at a local level; 86 out of 175 councils have adopted our motion for change. Through our campaign, called Bang Out of Order, we’re calling for a number of key changes to the law.
The unpredictable nature of fireworks and their frequent use throughout the year is making matters worse. We want to see the sale and use of fireworks limited to specific celebratory dates and designated times – namely 29 October to 5 November for Bonfire Night, with similar time limitations for other traditional dates.
We want to follow in the footsteps of countries that have successfully used firework control zones to protect vulnerable individuals and animals. Fireworks must be entirely prohibited near horses' habitats, sensitive wildlife areas, farms, animal centres and zoos.
Finally, we’re advocating to reduce the maximum permitted noise level for the public sale of fireworks from 120dB to 90dB, in line with international standards. This would take the noise level down from about that of a rock concert or a thunderclap, to more like a lawnmower.
These measures put the safety and wellbeing of animals first – as well as that of vulnerable people who may also be affected by the noise and flashes of fireworks. We believe that it’s possible to enjoy fireworks while being responsible.
Last year more than 18,000 supporters took action to support our Bang Out of Order campaign. So far, it seems our voices have not been as loud as the very bangs we want to reduce. We need to be louder: will you join us to take action?