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Fireworks and animal welfare

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Fireworks and animal welfare

During the operation of a firework display company we are constantly assessing risk in all areas of the business and in every operation.  When it comes to displays and the impact they have on the surrounding area we have to balance what is safe, legal and appropriate for each site.

One thing that comes up especially over the November season is the impact on animals, despite fireworks being fired in the UK since the 13th century.  As horse, dog and cat owners ourselves we understand people’s concerns.  The animal welfare act is often thrown at us as a way to put pressure on display organisers not to have shows, however this approach is misguided.  The Animal Welfare Act 2006 states:

Animal Welfare act 2006 to cause any unnecessary suffering to any captive or domestic animal.  Fireworks must not be set off near livestock or horses in fields or close to buildings housing livestock. Anyone planning a firework display in a rural area should warn neighbouring farmers in advance.

Section 4 of the AWA 2006 says ……
(1) A person commits an offence if—
(a) an act of his, or a failure of his to act, causes an animal to suffer,
(b) he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, that the act, or failure to act, would have that effect or be likely to do so,
(c) the animal is a protected animal, and
(d) the suffering is unnecessary.

Seems fairly cut and dry?  It is not for two reasons, firstly the act states "For the purposes of this Act, a person who owns an animal shall always be regarded as being a person who is responsible for it." This states that the owner is responsible for ensuring the welfare of the animal.

The second is that the use of Fireworks is a LEGAL activity and covered under primary legislation (The Pyrotechnic Directive 2015).

So therefore it is the owners of animals who fail to train, house or condition their animals to cater for the consequences of legal activity that are themselves failing under their obligation of the animal welfare act!  The animal welfare act was put in place to protect animals from people whose aim is to cause suffering and not to trump other legal activities.

This is backed up by the HSE and Explosives Industry Group guidelines for people running fireworks displays:
Neighbouring landowners or users
Advance warning to neighbouring landowners or users will enable them to move livestock (cattle, horses etc) where necessary.

Note there is no permission required from neighbours, informing them so they can take appropriate action is the limit of a display organisers responsibility and only in the case where he “ought reasonably to have known” that the show would cause suffering to animals, a neighbour simply owning animals is not enough as a good number of animals are not affected by fireworks.

So that’s all well and good, but some people still struggle with their pets over the November season, organised displays can be worked around, but what about random garden fireworks?  Well, if you are one of the many people in the UK that enjoy letting off fireworks in your garden I would implore you to do so in a sensible and responsible way.  Informing your neighbours of when and for how long you are going to be setting off fireworks is a minimum and being sensible about the size of the fireworks you intend on firing.

If you are a pet owner who struggles with their pets over Guy Fawkes here are a couple of links to help you prepare:

https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/dog-behaviour-health/sound-therapy-for-pets

https://www.vetsend.co.uk/firework-training/

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