The impact of fireworks on animal wellbeing and public safety explored

Fireworks illuminate the night sky over London at New Year's Eve.

Fireworks illuminate the night sky over London on New Year's Eve - Credit: PA

A joy to some, a scourge to others, each season of fireworks revives the debate over their use and restriction. 

Regulations already prohibit fireworks from being set off at any time between 11pm and 7am, with the exception of Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali. 

In November, MPs debated a petition which called for a ban on all domestic fireworks, citing noise, health and safety and the impact on the wellbeing of animals as concerns. 

According to the British Veterinary Association, an estimated 45 per cent of dogs show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. 

Noak Hill dog breeder Altay Arif, owner of Arma Kennels, told the Recorder how fireworks season can be a difficult time for people looking after animals in Havering. 

He said: “It’s not just the night, it’s the week after bonfire night.” 

According to Altay, past years have seen dogs he was rearing terrified and unwilling to leave the house for multiple weeks after a display. 

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“I think they should ban them, or [have them] just for displays; letting people have fireworks is a joke,” said the 44-year-old. 

A spokesperson for animal welfare charity Dogs Trust said they believe fireworks should only be used at public, licensed displays at certain times of the year, or organised events such as weddings. 

But Steve Raper, chairman of the British Fireworks Association, was sceptical of concerns for animal welfare.

He told the Recorder: “[Animals] don’t just keel over because there’s a firework, because if they did, they wouldn’t survive a thunderstorm”. 

Steve added that much of the concern was “driven by anecdote on social media”, and suggested animal owners train their pets outside the firework season so they are prepared for loud noises. 

He said tighter restrictions on the sale of fireworks would do little to address health and safety concerns either, claiming it would result in more people buying illegal and unregulated products. 

Currently fireworks can only be bought between October 15 and November 10, December 26 to 31 and three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year. 

Steve suggested instead that legal fireworks should be available for sale all year round, removing their novelty, but that tougher penalties should be introduced for fireworks misuse and a rise in the minimum age of lawful purchase, currently 18, considered. 

London Fire Brigade’s advice on keeping safe while using fireworks 

While the London Fire Brigade (LFB) urges people to reduce risk of injury or fire by attending an organised display, it has a number of tips for keeping safe for those who choose to have their own display. 

If you choose to have your own display, the brigade's advice is to purchase fireworks with the British standard kite mark, keep them in a closed metal box and set off one at a time. 

They suggest reading and following the instructions on each firework – using a torch if necessary – before lighting it at arm's length and standing well back. 

Naked flames, including cigarettes, should be kept away from fireworks at all times whilst rocket fires should be directed away from spectators, according to the LFB.

The brigade said fireworks should never be thrown or put in pockets and you should not return to a firework once it is lit. 

It also advises that a bucket of water or hosepipe be kept nearby in case of emergency. 

“Fireworks can be spectacular, but they are explosives and can cause serious injury if handled irresponsibly,” an LFB spokesperson said. 

Romford residents disagree over impact of fireworks on animals 

Members of the public who spoke to the Recorder in Romford town centre this week had mixed opinions on complaints about fireworks. 

Romford resident Paul Walters said he was fine with displays “so long as it’s done in a safe way”. 

Paul Walters

Paul Walters - Credit: Daniel Gayne

The 55-year-old said: “I don’t really do fireworks but this year when I saw the fireworks it was uplifting. 

“It’s once a day, once a year, it’s not a day-in-day-out thing, animals are not really in the firing line as far as I am concerned.” 

Irram Khan, 36, disagreed, complaining of the impact on animals, including her pet cat Ivy. 

Irram Khan

Irram Khan - Credit: Daniel Gayne

“It’s quite worrying, she looks in complete distress,” said the Romford resident, describing how the cat had been shaken by the New Year fireworks, hidden under the bed and unable to sleep. 

Irram complained that in recent years the fireworks did not seem to have a fixed time – “It’s just ongoing for about five hours” – and suggested licenses be introduced for purchase of fireworks. 

Jaye Smyths

Jaye Smyths - Credit: Daniel Gayne

Jaye Smyths, 39, however, felt pet owners needed to toughen up, blaming “extreme woke culture”. 

He added: “I think if it’s particular times of the year it’s fine – Christmas, November, everyone has a birthday, everyone has an anniversary.” 

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