Dogs Trust calls on Government to review existing fireworks legislation
The fun of a firework display may be short-lived, but the traumatic effect on dogs can be long term, writes Dogs Trust.
For many of us fireworks displays are bright and colourful extravaganzas. But for vulnerable people, children and pets, the sudden, unpredictable and loud nature of fireworks means they can be both terrifying and confusing, creating a much darker side to them that is not so well known.
That’s why Dogs Trust has joined forces with PTSD UK, Children’s Burns Trust, the British Veterinary Association, Blue Cross, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Cats Protection and the Kennel Club to raise awareness of the negative impact that fireworks can have on human and animal welfare and call on the Government to review existing legislation surrounding their use.
Current law states that anyone over the age of 18 can legally buy fireworks and set them off at any time of the year from 7am and 11pm. This easy access to fireworks means pet owners are facing a constant waiting game when it comes to loud noises and scared pets.
For dogs, who have approximately four times more sensitive hearing than humans and feel safe and secure when they can predict their environment, fireworks can render them completely vulnerable and emotionally exposed.
When frightened, dogs will often exhibit avoidance behaviours hiding away, not eating, trembling, urinating and/or defaecating, agitation or even scrabbling at doors. These are a physical manifestation of the body trying to avoid a perceived threat and preparing itself for escape if necessary. Unfortunately, it isn’t simply the case that a frightened dog returns to normal as soon as the fireworks stop, because the dog is likely to suffer the anticipatory anxiety of further incidence. This fearfulness can even develop into a more generalised sensitivity to any unexpected sound and can have a lasting impact on the individual’s behaviour, which owners can also find extremely distressing, therefore negatively impacting the quality of life of both dog and owner.
We also see obvious signs of distress including barking, self-trauma such as tail-chewing, spinning around on the spot, and destruction. These behaviours occur as dogs try to drive away the perceived threat, redirecting to themselves or other items because the noises do not appear to have a tangible source.
These behaviours can be extremely challenging for owners to address because fireworks remain beyond their control, so they are unable to remove the triggers of their dog’s fearful behaviour or provide absolute safety for their dog. At Dogs Trust we also know all too well that behavioural problems are a common cause of dogs being relinquished into our care.
This is why on Tuesday 30th October we are holding a drop-in session in Dining Room B in the House of Commons to talk to MPs and Peers about this important issue. We will be highlighting the debilitating effect that fireworks can have on vulnerable people and pets and asking MPs and Peers to sign a pledge board calling on the Government to conduct a review of existing fireworks legislation with the view to introducing further restrictions on their use.
We hope we can rely on MPs and Peers to consider the impact that fireworks have on human and animal welfare and support our call for a review of the legislation on when and where they should be used.