ANIMALS 101 – MAKE A DIFFERENCE NOT A NOISE!
Guy Fawkes, Diwali and even New Year’s Eve are approaching fast and fireworks are sadly always involved. Pet owners dread holidays and occasions that feature fireworks. These events usually send their domestic animals and wild animals into a frenzy or a state of frozen terror.
Fear of fireworks (and storms) is a serious health concern for animals. Storm and Fireworks phobias cause extreme anxiety and discomfort not only for our four-legged companions but also for human family members who feel helpless to ease their pet’s suffering as well as individuals with disabilities, war veterans or those suffering from PTSD.
THE PROBLEM WITH FIREWORKS
- Some studies suggest that 50% of cats & dogs suffer from firework stress and show that in phobic dogs, plasma cortisol (stress hormone) levels can jump over 200 percent from exposure to just an audio recording of a storm.
- Many animals desperately try to get out and even become disorientated when fireworks are set off. Sometimes they can’t find their way back home again or some hurt themselves trying to get over fences and through palisades.
- Some wildlife like birds and squirrels can abandon their young in a panic.
- Fireworks pollute the air & land! Some waterbirds and fish die when they eat firework debris.
- Fireworks can cause wildfires which can also lead to suffering and death for animals.
- The hearing of many animals, especially cats and dogs are more sensitive than it is in humans, so the explosions of fireworks are not only disturbing and frightening, it can also damage their hearing. They can hear sounds as much as 5 to 10 times louder than humans.
- The day and even week after such an event the animal welfare organisations and shelters are flooded with stray and hurt animals. Studies suggest 30-60% increase in lost pets after such an event.
- Your few minutes fun cost animals their lives and cause tons of suffering!
FIREWORKS & THE LAW
Fireworks in South Africa are controlled in terms of the Explosives Act 15 of 2003 (Explosives Act). There are also specific by-laws that regulate the use or exploding of fireworks.
Read the act on the SAPS website HERE
- Firework dealers need to be licensed in terms of the Explosives Act. Only individuals in possession of valid licences may deal in the sale of fireworks.
- No fireworks may be sold by street hawkers or vendors.
- It is unlawful to set off fireworks without a certificate for authorization.
- It is also unlawful for any person to use or explode any firework within 500 metres of any building or any public thoroughfare. This includes any residential area.
If you notice these actions, please report them to your nearest police station! Don’t use fireworks nor support shops that sell them and businesses that display them for fun or allow them on their premises. If your company does it, please see management or organize a petition against it in your town.
TIPS FOR FIREWORK PREPARATION
There are things you can do to help your furry family members remain calm when fireworks may be used, but executing your plan prior to your dog becoming stressed is most important.
- Use a teaspoon to knock on various surfaces around the house and follow up with a treat. This teaches your dog that startling sounds predict yummy food.
- Teach your dog to use a Kong or chew toy so that they can engage in this calming activity during the next fireworks occasion.
- Play with your dog during thunderstorms. Creating an association between play and the cracks of lightning will aid in generalizing a positive emotional state during fireworks.
- Make sure your micro-chip information is registered on more than one database and up-to-date as well as your animal having an up-to-date tag on their collar. This is a big challenge when we find pets with out-of-date details.
- If you know your animal is prone to extreme stress during this time, then see your veterinarian, prior to these events, for some medication. Never use human medication and discuss the use of natural remedies with your veterinarian.
- Make sure your yard is secure and safe as many pets who try to escape get stuck on palisades or hurt on other fencing.
Watch this video for more details.
WHAT TO DO DURING FIREWORKS
- On the day of the expected fireworks, look for your animals, especially cats, before the fireworks start.
- Close windows and curtains so your pet is not startled by sudden flashes.
- Keep your pets indoors with windows, doors and pet doors shut & secured so they can’t escape when spooked.
- If your cat is not used to being indoors, provide extra litter boxes inside.
- Provide your pet with food before the fireworks as it can help calm them or they might be too stressed to eat later.
- Give your pet a safe place to hide with blankets and bedding to mask the sounds. Cats also feel secure and loves boxes.
- Put the TV or music on to mute the firework bangs.
- If your pet is hiding, don’t try to lure them out. This can make them become more anxious & stressed.
- Distract your pet with treats or play time if they are pacing or displaying nervous behaviour.
- Stay home with your pets in these frightening times as you would with frightened children. You also need to stay calm as they can feel your anxiety.
This year volunteer at your local shelters when fireworks are being set off by these selfish humans so you can help comfort the animals. Help us educate others by sharing this information and reporting any unlawful selling or use of fireworks.
If you find a lost dog or pet, please take them to the SPCA or local shelter!