Look out for animal health and welfare around Guy Fawkes

This year, look after the animals - don’t let off fireworks at home or around your community.

 Every year, veterinary clinics see animals injured and traumatised by fireworks. These include pets, wildlife and stock. Some injuries are horrific. Fireworks can also cause severe anxiety and stress in animals - psychological harm that has a huge impact on animal welfare.

"We encourage people to avoid buying and letting off fireworks. Fewer fireworks reduce the negative impact on affected animals," says Helen Beattie, the New Zealand Veterinary Association’s Chief Veterinary Officer.

"The NZVA supports a ban on the private sale of fireworks because it will improve the welfare of animals who find fireworks stressful. We are disappointed the Government recently decided not to ban the private sale of fireworks. 

"We will continue to advocate that the Government do so. We also encourage people to continue to speak up on this issue - and speak loudly for the animals, since they can’t speak for themselves.

"We understand some people enjoy having private fireworks displays, but it is the role of veterinarians to advocate for what is in the best interests of animals."

This is not an issue limited to Matariki or Guy Fawkes night. People buy and store fireworks for use at other times. This means the impact fireworks have on animals is year-round, and sporadic -  making it more difficult for people to manage and protect easily stressed and anxious animals.

New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act is world-leading, because it acknowledges animals experience physical pain and distress and also acknowledges they are sentient (can have positive and negative psychological experiences).

"Our society has a responsibility to minimise physical and mental harm to animals, including harm caused by fireworks."

Animal owners should speak to their veterinarian sooner rather than later if their animal is affected by fireworks. Veterinarians can advise on how best to keep animals safe and calm.  The NZVA’s top tips to protect animals from fireworks:

  1.       Find out where & when firework displays will take place near you.
  2.       Do the following to minimise stress to your animal during these times:
    • Keep pets indoors, close curtains & windows.
    • Bring inside rabbits, guinea pigs & other pets usually housed outside.
    • Turn on the radio or television to create a familiar sound. Consider pet specific music to reduce anxiety.
    • Remove items from the room/area that could injure your animal.
    • Ensure your pet has somewhere comforting to hide (such as a box or crate) or somewhere else they feel safe to retreat to.
    • Exercise dogs early in the day - avoid being out at dusk when fireworks are likely to be set off. Ensure dogs have been stimulated sufficiently during the day - they are more likely to rest in the evening.
    •  Be calm and reassuring. Remember, you cannot reinforce fear with comfort. Fear is an unpleasant emotion. Providing reassurance will help allay that.
    • If your animal has previously shown fearful behaviour, contact a veterinary clinic now for additional coping strategies - don’t wait till Guy Fawkes day. Speak with your veterinarian about options for your animals before, during and after the stressful fireworks period or event.
    • Both cats and dogs should be microchipped & have a collar and identification tag with your contact details.
    • Move horses & farm animals away from fireworks. Make sure all fences are secure. Stable horses where possible. Do well in advance so the animals can get used to their new surroundings.