Bonfire Night 2022: Fireworks and animal distress - should they be banned and how can we help our pets?

Pets can become distressed by loud, random bangs.

Bonfire Night is fast approaching and despite firework displays being a much-loved tradition, the loud bangs can be uncomfortable for our canine friends.

Liverpool Council and Wirral Council recently announced the cancellation of firework displays, which may lead to more people deciding to host their own displays in their gardens.

Dogs Trust Merseyside

Dogs Trust Head of Canine Behaviour, Dr Jenna Kiddie, said: “Dogs have approximately four times more sensitive hearing than humans, so the loud cracks and bangs of fireworks can often be a terrifying experience for them. Following the recent news that firework displays that are run by local councils have been cancelled in some parts of the UK, there may be a rise in people hosting private firework displays at home.

“We would urge dog owners to be extra prepared for a rise in neighbourhood displays, and to look at our advice for full guidance on how to help their dogs stay safe and settled during fireworks. Private firework displays may not be limited to one night, so it is very important for all dog owners to seek out advice early, in order to have a comfortable fireworks season with their dog.”

What did our readers say?

We asked our readers what they thought about banning fireworks to prevent pet distress.

Ann Boardman said: “Ban sale to public only have organised displays I always prayed for heavy rain on bonfire night.”

Michael Bennett added: “Ban them! It lasts months rather than one night.”

Radha Raman Das Vanacari said: “Yes ban them forever pets don’t like them and most people don’t like them.”

Gillian Steel commented: “Italy only have silent fireworks..maybe UK should.”

John Taylor said: “We have 4 dogs and they get a propriety calming pill at the start of the evenings when fireworks are expected locally. We stay in with them so they’re not on their own and generally they’re OK. In our village we only get fireworks let off about 3 times a year so it isn’t a significant issue for us.”

Advice for Bonfire Night

Dogs Trust Merseyside share the following tips for making your dog comfortable during firework displays:

1. Adapt your routine - To avoid taking your dog out when fireworks have started, gradually change their routine in the weeks leading up to events.

2. Plan ahead – Ensure you are aware of any local firework displays and make arrangements so your dog is not left alone. Prepare their environment in advance, close curtains, turn on the lights, and turn on the television or some music to help block the outside noise.

3. Keep your dog safe - Make sure your house and garden are secure.

4. Recognise the needs of your dog - Fireworks can spark varied reactions from dogs, some will appear relaxed and unbothered by the loud bangs; others will show signs of anxiety or fear. They may show subtle signs, such as panting or licking their lips, finding somewhere to hide or seeking attention from their human family. Or they may show more obvious signs, such as pacing, barking or even toileting in the house.

5. Enable their preferred response by letting your dog do what they feel most comfortable with - Some dogs will benefit from having a safe place to retreat to should they feel worried by fireworks. Introduce this safe place well in advance and encourage them there by building up positive associations with their new ‘den’. Other dogs will cope best by seeking reassurance, so give them attention and comfort if they seek this out.

6. Seek guidance from your vet - they can help with advice, refer you to a clinical behaviourist, and may also prescribe medication if deemed necessary to help your dog cope. Medication can be extremely useful where dogs are fearful as it can not only help them cope during the fireworks event, but also stop their fear escalating after each event. Give any prescribed medication well in advance of events starting.