By Kitty Block
Anyone with pets knows that our furry family members can become so frightened by exploding fireworks that they do anything to escape the noise, whether it’s hiding in the bathtub, or something more desperate (and dangerous), such as breaking through windows or door screens.
At least we can make preparations to mitigate the stress and trauma of fireworks for our pets. But it’s important to remember that our pets aren’t the only animals affected by the noise and flashing lights.
Following a New Year’s Eve fireworks display in 2010, residents of Beebe, Arkansas, witnessed as many as 5,000 blackbirds fall from the sky; tests found that the birds died from blunt-force trauma. Fireworks may also cause birds to take off en masse for prolonged periods of time, expending crucial energy, or even fly so far out to sea that they’re unable to make the return flight.
News reports reveal that horses often become panicked and run from fireworks; a 2021 fireworks display frightened a family’s horses into breaking through their fencing, causing the eldest to suffer a gruesome and agonizing compound leg fracture that led to his euthanasia. When Pennsylvania legalized the use of consumer-grade fireworks in 2017, horse and dog owners reported a sharp increase in cases of animals becoming distressed, panicked and injured—sometimes fatally.
One of the most powerful parts of helping animals is not only working to save them from harm, but also to prevent that harm from befalling them in the first place. Understanding how our celebrations can impact the natural world can help us all take measures to keep animals in mind.
As the U.S. approaches Independence Day, animal lovers can help raise awareness for animals—pets and wildlife—who can become panicked and even be injured or killed because of the bombast of fireworks. In many states, fireworks celebrations start well before the holiday, and continue long after it ends. In addition to preparing our own companion animals for the noises that can last much of the summer, we should take proactive steps to prevent harm to wild animals by encouraging animal-friendly celebrations in our towns or even in our own backyards.
- Remember to keep your pets safely indoors, preferably with a radio or TV turned on to soften jarring noises. You can also consult your veterinarian about available medications and techniques to help alleviate your pet’s fear and anxiety. Also, make sure that all pets, even those kept indoors full-time, always wear collars with ID tags, are microchipped and that the chip is properly registered with your current contact information.
- Consider working with local officials to use colorful “silent” or “quiet” fireworks for public celebrations. Some traditional fireworks also make a quieter, swishing noise that is less likely to send animals into a panic.
- Try urging your community to get rid of fireworks altogether in favor of drone displays, like the one seen at the opening of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, which can be a colorful replacement. Out of concerns about wildfires, some Western U.S. cities have also replaced fireworks with shows featuring drones and lasers, which are far less damaging to wildlife and polluting to the environment.
- Think about working with local or state officials on ordinances or laws to regulate which types of fireworks can be used, and when. Pennsylvania is considering such a measure, and localities as diverse as Banff and Vancouver in Canada, Collecchio, Italy, and the Galapagos Islands have limited or prohibited the use of loud fireworks displays.
It’s inspiring to think that even our smallest decisions can make a world a difference for animals. As always, you can contact your HSUS state director to learn more about becoming active for animals in all kinds of ways in your community. Taking that first step toward creating a more humane world, for both animals and people, is definitely something worth celebrating.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.