Bonfire Night Countdown: One Month to Prepare Your Pets for Fireworks Fright Night

RSPCA launching 2021’s #BangOutOfOrder campaign to help animal owners

With reports of a number of firework events cancelled already across England and Wales the RSPCA is concerned, there may be an increase in unofficial at-home events in 2021.

This news may concern animal owners who have nervous pets or who own horses or livestock who live outside and may get spooked by unexpected lights and noises.

Over the last five years, the animal welfare charity has received 1,621 calls about fireworks – and it fears this year could be worse if many more people go ahead with smaller displays in their gardens.

RSPCA campaigns manager Carrie Stones said: “We know that some councils including Leeds and Dunstable have announced cancellations already this year so we do have concerns that people may hold events in their own gardens.

“Whilst we can prepare our animals for one night of disruption it’s difficult when bonfire night now tends to last for days or weeks either side.

“The RSPCA has lots of information on it’s website and also some top tips on how to start preparing your animals now – with just a month to go.”

Around 62% of dogs, 55% of horses and 54% of cats in the UK* show signs of anxiety when they hear fireworks. Loud bangs and bright flashes of light are also known to cause fear and distress to lots of other animals including smaller pets like rabbits and guinea pigs, livestock and wildlife.

RSPCA animal welfare expert Dr Mark Kennedy said: “Firework phobia is treatable and we recommend seeking advice from your vet if your pet is anxious during fireworks season. If necessary, your vet will be able to refer you to a professional clinical animal behaviourist.

“While it may take time for treatment plans to take effect for some pets with more severe phobias; for others, there are simple steps you can take at home in the weeks leading up to Bonfire Night to help them.”

RSPCA top tips

  • Provide your dog or cat with a safe haven – Create a doggy den in a quiet area of the house and make it a special safe place by placing tasty treats and favourite toys inside. Make sure your cats always have access to plenty of places around the house to hide.

  • Diffusers – Speak to your vet about using a calming collar or diffuser which disperses calming pheromones which may help your dog or cat feel more secure. A good choice is Pet Remedy for example.

  • Introduce changes to your pet’s routine slowly – It’s sensible to keep your horse in a familiar environment, following their normal routine with their usual companions. If you’re planning to bring your horse or livestock into a stable or barn overnight during fireworks, start to introduce the change of routine now to get them used to being in. We recommend walking dogs during daylight during fireworks season so if this is different to your normal routine, begin to alter the time of your pet’s walk to get them gradually used to it.

  • Provide extra bedding – Rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals who live outside should have extra bedding to burrow into or you can cover their housing with a blanket for extra sound-proofing. Begin to introduce this now.

  • Bringing pets inside –  If you’re planning to bring them indoors to better protect them then start to make this change ahead of fireworks night to get them used to the new sights, smells and sounds inside.

  • Speak to neighbours – If you want to plan for dates of local displays then check local press and websites and speak to your neighbours and local councils/schools etc to find out dates ahead of time so you can plan now to help your pet. Ask organisers to site fireworks well away from your horse and aimed in the opposite direction.

  • Soundproof your house – Simple steps like closing windows and curtains can help your house seem safer to your pet so begin doing this now if it’s different to normal to get your pet used to it.

  • Start desensitising them to sounds – Teach your pet to deal with the sounds by using training CDs. We recommend Sounds Scary which comes with guidance on how to use it. You can also muffle the sound of fireworks for dogs and other pets by using calming music like classical playlists – start to introduce this now. This is a long-term approach so may be worth starting now ahead of next year.

  • Get help – If your pet has a severe fireworks fear then speak to your vet  now to come up with a plan or to discuss whether there are any treatment options to help them. If necessary, your vet can refer you to a professional clinical animal behaviourist.

This year the RSPCA has already written to councils across the country;  toolkits will be provided  to help minimise the disruption of fireworks. The charity is also this year introducing an all species online reporting scheme to map incidents to help us gain a better understanding of how we can help. For animal welfare concerns and advice people should still ring our cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.

For more information about the RSPCA’s #BangOutOfOrder campaign and to support our calls for more controls over fireworks displays, as well as guidance on sending a letter to your council please visit our ~BangOutOfOrder webpage here. And to support the FAB Firework Abatement UK, please sign the petition online.

For more tips to help animals during fireworks season, please visit our website.

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