The fireworks displays around 5th November will be noisy, colourful and dramatic. Most people will love them. But for countless animals, they will be terrifying, and there will be accidents and injuries and even deaths as a result.

A bit of forward planning and preparation could make sure your family pets and livestock are kept safe. And we can all help ensure that the animals in our community don’t suffer fireworks-related accidents.

Firework displays have always been a feature of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere but they don’t translate well in the South.

Here in New Zealand, it’s springtime in November. It’s the breeding season - farm animals and horses have their young at foot and many birds are nesting.

It’s just the wrong time of year for lots of sudden and unusual sights and sounds in the dark!

Fireworks frighten animals
  • The loud screeches and explosions and the bright flashing lights of fireworks are very frightening for animals.
  • Terrified cats and dogs will try to run away or hide, and they may get lost or injured or killed on the roads.
  • Frightened livestock will also try to run away, and unless they are in a safe and secure place there is a very real risk they will get caught in fences, or break through fences or gates onto the roads
  • Older animals and nervous animals can even suffer panic attacks or heart attacks!
What can you do to protect your family pets?
  • On the night of the fireworks display, it might be possible to “farm out” your dogs and cats with someone they know.
  • If this isn’t possible, they can be left indoors as long as they cannot see or hear the fireworks.
  • The sights and sounds can be muffled by keeping interior doors and curtains closed, and by leaving a radio or the TV on fairly loud to provide distracting noise.
  • If you have a nervous dog or cat, a very old pet or a pet with a heart problem, talk to your veterinarian before the next display. He or she might be able to supply a light sedative for the animal during high-risk periods.
Make sure your pets have collars on
  • Your dog’s registration disc should be attached to its collar.
  • Cat collars should be labelled with a contact phone number and they should of course have an elastic insert to prevent strangling if they get hooked up.
  • Then if your pet should go astray you can be contacted promptly.
What about livestock?
  • All livestock are liable to be frightened by fireworks.
  • The animals probably most at risk are horses and ponies (particularly foals and horses with a flighty nature), and deer.
  • They can be panicked by the screeches, explosions and flashes of fireworks, and there is a real risk of serious injury if they blunder into fences or through gates, over bluffs or into ditches.
  • The consequences are likely to be particularly serious if they escape onto the road, where they can be injured or killed, or cause accidents involving pedestrians and motorists.
  • Anyone who has livestock close to a fireworks display should move their animals to a safe place beforehand.
  • This means a secure well-fenced paddock well away from the display.
  • Alternatively, horses could be stabled for the night, or an old sensible horse could be borrowed as a paddock companion for a few days before and during the event.
  • It is very important that if livestock cannot be moved away from the sight or sound of the fireworks someone stays with them throughout the event to make sure they come to no harm.
What about birds?
  • Wild birds can be frightened off their nests and so too can domestic birds, so their eggs get cold and the chicks die.
  • Roosting birds can be frightened off their perches, and migrating birds can be frightened off course. In poor light, they are then very vulnerable to accidents.
Suggestions for firework display organisers
  • It can be very helpful if the organisers of firework displays give the neighbours advance warning.
  • Leaflets in letter boxes can be effective.
  • For bigger displays, a notice can be placed in a local shop window or in the public notices column of the local newspaper.
  • When the organisers know there are a lot of vulnerable animals such as mares and foals in the neighbourhood, they could perhaps select fireworks that explode close to the ground and cut out those that make the loudest bangs and screeches.
Then … enjoy the fireworks!

When you have done all you can to make sure your animals are safe during any fireworks display, you can relax and have fun without worrying that the sights and sounds are terrifying animals.

Then you deserve to enjoy the show!