Fireworks – Silence is Golden – Do we really need the Big Bang?

As we enter fireworks season in the UK, I want to put it out there and ask that people stick to the celebratory dates and consider using ‘silent’ or quiet fireworks. Sadly, in recent times, I have noticed that fireworks are being set off several weeks in advance of Bonfire Night (November 5th) and continue well into the New Year. Sometimes even being set off during daylight hours which makes absolutely no sense to me. There have also been several occasions where fireworks have been let off to celebrate football matches which sadly, not being a fan, leaves me little to no time to prepare in advance. I’m sure many of you can relate to the feeling of utter despair and frustration I feel when forced to witness the trauma caused to our beloved pets.

Just last week, Sandra Rolfe of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, told The Metro of her nightmare experience with her Pug x Spaniel, Penny, who was almost killed when she was knocked down by a car after fleeing in fright after being spooked by people setting off fireworks nearby. Last year, it was reported in the media that an 18 week old Terrier puppy called Molly belonging to Susan Paterson of South Yorkshire and Archie the rabbit, belonging to Donna Pilgrim of Cornwall both died of fright/heart attacks thought to be brought on by fireworks. Fiona Hohmann of Swansea has also highlighted the plight of her beloved horse Solo, who was so distressed by fireworks that he bolted in panic until he suffered a ‘twisted gut’ and died.

Of course, we should remember that fireworks don’t just have a negative effect on domestic pets who at least have their hoomans for comfort and care. The impact of fireworks on birds and other wildlife is often overlooked so it is important to include examples in this blog. The California Costal Commission banned fireworks in the city of Gualala in 2006 after a display caused nesting sea birds to flee their nests and abandon their chicks. And in 2010, the residents of Beebe, Arkansas feared an apocalypse after over 5000 dead or dying-red winged blackbirds fell from the skies after a New Years Eve fireworks display.

I was delighted to learn that the town of Collecchio in Italy has made it a matter of law that ‘silent’ fireworks be used in order to minimise distress to animals. The city of Bristol in England also favours ‘silent’ fireworks. Of course, the word ‘silent’ is slightly misleading as they are not completely silent, but the noise is greatly reduced without the usual loud bangs and booms that we have come to dread as pet parents. Many people would welcome the use of quiet fireworks too such as the elderly, military veterans with PTSD and those with learning difficulties such as autism.

My own dog, Pixie, suffers terribly around this time of year and it absolutely breaks my heart to see her shaking uncontrollably in such a state of fear. Having grown up with gun dogs who were unfazed by loud and sudden noises, I had to learn pretty quick how to deal with this and minimise her distress. I’d like to share with you how we get through this together:

  • About 2 weeks in advance, I start Pixie on Zylkene tablets to get them to an effective level in her system. I purchase Pet Remedy and spray that on her comfort blanket. I walk her before sundown so that she doesn’t need out during peek dark hours then put on her Thunder Shirt. I purchased all of these items from my local Pets At Home store where recommendations and advice on products can be given by their very knowledgeable staff members.
  • I stay in with her during this time and close the curtains to reduce noise and visual stimuli.
  • I turn the volume up on the television and on Bonfire Night, we listen to the very soothing Pet Sounds radio show on Classic FM which is presented by the lovely Bill Turnbull.
  • I make a ‘den’ for Pixie so that she has a safe hiding place if she does feel distressed, but I do try to act ‘normally’ so as not to feed into her anxiety.

I would also recommend the following:

  • Where possible, bring any outdoor pets inside.
  • Ensure microchips are up to date and identity tags are worn just in case they do bolt/run away.
  • There are many other calming products on the market such as ‘Feliway’ and ‘Adaptil’ but in extreme cases you can seek advice on sedatives from your vet.
  • Some people introduce noise desensitisation practices however I would recommend seeking guidance from a reputable behaviourist on that.

I sincerely hope that your pets and local wildlife do not suffer this firework season and I would actively encourage you to get involved in any local campaigns and sign petitions calling for the use of ‘silent’/quiet fireworks. Hopefully more retailers will follow the example of Sainsbury’s and stop selling fireworks altogether. Unfortunately, time and time again, it is shown that we can’t rely on people to act responsibly and show consideration towards others so I really do feel that the time has come to intervene and cut these irresponsible and inconsiderate people off at the source.

Thank you so much for reading, stay safe and find more information for your reference via the links below.