A beautiful fireworks display marked the start of 2023, but only some could enjoy the festivities. Some animals, especially horses, were left in a state of complete distress and panic, leaving their owners with no other option but to put them to sleep. Why do fireworks prove so traumatic to some animals?
Horses are flight animals, and the sudden explosion of fireworks can cause them to be in a constant state of fight or flight, which poses a severe risk to their human carers. In some cases, the distress caused by fireworks can result in horses shutting down and depleting their adrenaline stores. Prolonged fear from fireworks can also lead to heart arrhythmias, dangerous drops in blood pressure, and endocrine issues. For horses who experience prolonged trauma from fireworks night after night, their fear can become hard-wired, changing their physiological state.
The British Horse Society reported over 1,120 incident reports involving fireworks in the past 12 years, with 291 horse injuries, 75 human injuries, and 42 horse fatalities. The true impact is feared to be much worse, with only one in ten incidents being reported.
Lucy Grieve, Equine Projects Officer at the British Equine Veterinary Association, says that just like people, all horses are different, and their hearing and visual systems are completely different from ours, which affects the way they interpret things. Dr. Malcolm Morley, President of the British Veterinary Association, says that fireworks are a traditional means of celebrating, but the public is not always aware of the impact they can have on animals. Often, horses are injured not by the fireworks themselves but by the fear of the fireworks.
The RSPCA is calling for changes to the law around fireworks and has urged the government to follow Scotland’s lead and introduce legislation restricting the times when fireworks can be sold and used, and reduce the maximum noise level of fireworks for public sale from 120dB to 90dB.
It is an offence under the UK’s Animal Welfare Act 2006 to cause an animal unnecessary suffering, including through the misuse of fireworks. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act increased the maximum penalty for animal cruelty to 5 years’ imprisonment. There are existing laws that control the sale, availability, and use of fireworks, but the current law is either not being enforced or not working properly, according to Andrew Selous, the Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire.
In conclusion, fireworks can be a source of joy for some but can be a source of extreme distress and even death for our furry friends. We must be mindful of the impact that our celebrations can have on animals and take steps to minimize their exposure to fireworks. It’s time to take action and Support changes to the law to protect our animal companions. So, the next time you plan on setting off fireworks, think about the impact it might have on your neighborhood pets and do your part in keeping them safe.
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