AN organisation has issued a warning ahead of bonfire night (Sunday, November 5) - reminding of the harm fireworks can cause to livestock, wildlife, pets and the environment. 

The Countryside Alliance has received a number of emails from concerned members, and is urging the public to 'show consideration' to animals when planning to set off fireworks. 

A spokesperson for the organisation said: "Studies have found that 80% of horses become anxious or very anxious during firework displays, which commonly leads to running. Petrified horses do not only pose a risk to themselves – they may accidentally hurt their handlers and bystanders when bolting.

"Dogs often experience extreme discomfort and anxiety from fireworks, predominantly due to their hearing capacity being up to 60,000hz – three times the capacity of humans.

"This severe psychological distress produces similar responses in dogs to post-traumatic stress in humans, which can cause aggressiveness and contribute to health conditions.

"Even birds are harmed by fireworks. Many wild birds become disoriented and lost, causing them to crash into buildings, fall by the thousands into communities, or fly too far out to sea. Chickens often huddle together in their panic, which may cause them to smother one another to death.

"The past year alone saw numerous cases of horses being killed and injured due to firework displays.

"One horse ran blindly into a fence, sustaining such serious injuries that it was euthanised to alleviate greater suffering. Another horse died after being unable to stand due to the distress caused by fireworks. In other cases, anxious horses severly injured themselves by crashing into objects and developed fatal intestinal conditions caused by stress, even when sedated during the firework displays."

In Leicerstershire, Nicola Housley petitioned against fireworks announced to be held on bonfire night after a local football club began selling tickets to an unprecedented fireworks night at a sports ground, despite the venue being surrounded by fields with over forty horses, and near to fields with over four hundred horses.

After an online petition and protest from the community, the organisers cancelled the display. 

Sabina Roberts, from the Countryside Alliance, added: “This incident is neither isolated nor unavoidable; haphazard firework displays in rural areas recurringly disregard the welfare of animals and cause misery.

"Sensible and simple measures, such as consulting local communities well in advance of proposed displays and using low-noise fireworks, would make a tangible difference for animals. Ultimately, this is about using common sense.”

Animal welfare organisations have offered the following advice to prepare for bonfire night: 

  • Horse owners are encouraged to be with their horses during scheduled display times and keep to routines, leave stable lights and music on to lessen the effect of sudden flashes and noise, and ensure wherever their horses spend the night are safe and secure, including by checking for protruding nails in stables and broken rails, barbed wire, and objects that could injure the horse in fields.
  • Dog owners should create a sense of familiarity by distracting their dogs with TV or music that the dog has heard before, behave as normal to send positive signals, reward calm behaviour with dog treats or playing, and keep their dogs at home during firework displays, even if their dogs don’t show visible signs of stress.
  • Organisers of firework displays should clearly advertise events to local communities and farms well in advance so they can prepare to settle their animals, direct displays away from known fields or buildings with livestock in them, and consider using low noise fireworks which create a visual effect but are quieter. This advice rings true for individuals planning to set off fireworks at their own premises. However, members of the public should consider attending organised events rather than creating their own displays, particularly if presiding in an area with known farms and livestock.