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Prevent Animals’ Guy Fawkes Terror

Prevent Animals’ Guy Fawkes Terror

The Royal New Zealand SPCA is calling on the public to make a special effort to minimise the suffering and distress of animals on and around Guy Fawkes Night.

“For most animals, the nights around November 5th will be a time of terror, thanks to the loud screeches, explosions and bright flashing lights of fireworks. There will be accidents, injuries and even deaths,” says the SPCA’s Veterinary Adviser, Marjorie Orr.

“In their fright, cats and dogs will try to run away or hide. Some may get lost or even injured or killed on the roads. Terrified livestock may also try to run away and get caught in fences or escape onto the roads. Meanwhile, older or more nervous animals will be particularly vulnerable to life-threatening panic attacks or heart attacks,” says Dr Orr.

“In New Zealand, the problem has an additional twist as our main fireworks festival, Guy Fawkes Night, has been imported from the Northern Hemisphere, where it takes place in the Autumn. Here, however, it occurs in Spring when many species are breeding, when farm animals and horses have their young with them at their feet and when many birds are nesting. This is already a tense time for animals and is made all the more threatening by fireworks.

“Pet-owners, farmers and everyone else really should be trying hard to ensure that our enjoyment isn’t bought at the expense of avoidable suffering to animals,” she says.

Dr Orr recommends that pet-owners who wish to attend a firework display, should leave their pets in the care of someone they know and trust. If no such arrangement is possible, owners might consider staying at home with their pets. In any event, they should make sure their animals can’t see or hear the fireworks.

Anxiety-inducing sights and sounds can be muffled by keeping interior doors and curtains closed and by leaving a radio or television on fairly loud to provide a distracting noise.

“If you have a nervous dog or cat, or a very old pet with a heart problem, you should also talk to your veterinarian well before Guy Fawkes Night. Your vet may be able to supply a light sedative for your pet,” says Dr Orr.

“Because of the increased likelihood of them getting lost, it’s even more important than usual over the Guy Fawkes period, to ensure your pet wears its collar. Dog collars should have registration disks attached and cat collars should be labelled with a contact telephone number. It’s also important for cat collars to have an elastic insert to prevent strangling if they get hooked up,” she adds.

With respect to farm livestock, Dr Orr says that the animals most likely to be at risk are horses, ponies and deer. She recommends that anyone who has livestock close to a projected firework display should move their animals to a safe place beforehand.

“This could mean placing them in a well-fenced paddock well away from the event. Or it could mean stabling horses for the night. An additional precaution might be to borrow an old and sensible horse for a few days as a paddock companion for flightier animals,“ she says, adding that horses and farm animals that panic, flee and end up on the roads can be a danger to motorists and pedestrians as well as to themselves.

Dr Orr recommends that firework display organisers give their neighbours advance warning, putting leaflets in letter-boxes or, in the case of larger displays, placing notices in shop windows or in local newspapers.

“It’s also worth considering selecting fireworks that explode close to the ground and avoiding those which make the loudest bangs and screeches,” she says.

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