Fireworks Threaten Animals
An Animal Rights Article from

Read more at Say NO to Fireworks - It's the Humane Thing to Do

In this age of technology, surely we can create celebratory displays that are thrilling and joyful without endangering our ears, our dogs and cats, and our wild neighbors.

No fireworks

As factual information about the interaction between animals and fireworks is very hard to locate, it is clear from our research that using fireworks near animals is both cruel and inhumane.

Firework displays and celebrations bring confusion, anxiety and fear into the lives of animals, causing many to run away from their homes in an effort to escape the frightening detonations.

Fireworks are not animal-friendly. Invariably, when communities celebrate with fireworks, local shelters and other animal aid organizations are overwhelmed by the "fallout," which manifests in an increased number of stray animals and reports of injuries and trauma to animals. Those animals who are reunited with their families must consider themselves fortunate. Many injured or terrorized animals run away from their homes to escape the traumatizing detonations of fireworks. Some are hit by cars and injured or killed, some are maimed for life, while others are never recovered alive.

Firework explosions can produce a blind panic in animals that can lead to serious injury, deep-rooted, debilitating fears, or even death. This is, in part, because the events do not last long enough for animals to become accustomed to the explosions.

Moreover, the ears of most animals are considerably more sensitive than the human ear. Therefore, the explosion of a firework (which can emit sounds of up to 190 decibels, a full 110 to 115 decibels higher than the 75- to 80-decibel range, where damage to the human ear begins) not only is proportionately more disturbing to an animal, it can also affect an animal's acute sense of hearing. And animals who are too close to firework explosions often suffer significant burns and eye damage. Fireworks generate a noise level higher than the noise from gunshots (140 decibels) and low-level flying jets (100 decibels). Irreversible ear damage, such as tinnitus and loss of hearing in humans starts at the 80-decibel range.

Startling, extremely loud sounds must have a detrimental effect on wildlife as well. In 1996, research demonstrated that hatchling and juvenile black ducks at a site of overflights in Piney Island, N.C., grew slower and had less body weight than black ducks living in low-noise areas. A study to examine the impact of sound from loud gunshots on snow geese found that the birds reduced their feeding time. The energy loss created could be only partially compensated for by feeding at night, resulting in less time resting and sleeping. Over time, these sorts of behaviors no doubt reduce survival rates.

Dr. David Noakes, a zoologist at the University of Guelph, Ontario, points out that the combined responses to fireworks of panic and disorientation can result in birds' flying into a building or too far out to sea. Researchers at Acadia University, Nova Scotia, found that colonial species of birds who nest in high densities, such as the herring gull, are most at risk during a round of firecracker explosions. After a loud bang, most birds fly away in fright, and the nesting mothers of the flock sometimes cannot find their own nest upon return, endangering the well-being of nestlings.

Fireworks produce light, noise and air pollution. The explosion of fireworks also releases poisonous chemicals and particle-laden smoke, contaminating our natural environment. As a consequence, fireworks pose a hazard to wildlife living in or near areas where firework displays occur, as well as wildlife downwind. And these chemicals are also hazardous to companion animals living in the area where they are detonated. And we can not forget humans with asthma and other health problems.

Fireworks can affect farm animals, too. Dr. Ian Duncan, a University of Guelph ethologist, has demonstrated that laying hens show extremely low egg production the day after fireworks and the eggs are often malformed as well.

Dogs, cats, and other companion animals don't understand that the terrifying loud bangs are a celebration. One can only imagine what they think, given how much more sensitive their hearing is than ours. Humane societies across North America report that after firework displays they are swamped with calls about lost dogs and cats. Dogs are brought to shelters with paws bloody from running or torn skin from tearing through a backyard wooden fence or, worse, crippled from being hit by a car.

The need to protect both companion animals and nondomesticated animals from fireworks harm is exemplified in the numerous stories of animal suffering that we are left with after the smoke has cleared. For example, dogs have responded to firework explosions by breaking through windows and screens, often running miles away from their homes, only to end up exhausted, bloody and confused or dead on the road. A bull trying to escape his pen in response to a fireworks display died after becoming impaled. The city of Carrollton, Texas, decided to cancel its 1999 July Fourth fireworks celebration after a fireworks test indicated that the lights and sounds disturbed egrets at a nearby rookery. And guide dogs are sometimes left so terrorized by the explosions that they suffer severe emotional distress and are unable to assist their companions. Consequently, it is not surprising that firework events generate an increase in the number of stray animals, as well as an increase in reports of injuries and trauma to animals.

For animals, fireworks are no cause for celebration. However, fireworks remain a holiday fixture in most communities around the world, despite the increased acceptance of alternatives such as laser light shows and neighborhood festivals.

Fireworks can create joy and excitement, but restrictions must be put into place. These safety tips should be followed to protect animals from fireworks:

  • Consideration must be given to alternatives to massive firework displays, such as laser light shows.
  • The use of the loudest pyrotechnics should be banned completely.
  • Displays must use only nontoxic, nonpercussive fireworks.
  • Displays of percussive fireworks should never be allowed in residential areas.
  • Displays should never be allowed where wildlife gathers or nest, especially threatened or endangered species.
  • Displays should be limited to specific areas, and should be kept short.
  • All area humane societies, animal care and control agencies and animal rescue groups should be alerted at least three months in advance of firework displays. This will give them ample time to include a notice in their newsletters and alert local residents of the impending fireworks.
  • Advance warning notices should be posted so that people with dogs and cats can keep animals indoors and play music to shut out as much noise as possible. Sufficient public notice of firework displays must be provided to allow animal caretakers ample time to take safety precautions.
  • Firework safety materials that include how to protect animals from harm must be distributed in schools and released through all local media outlets prior to times of firework use.
  • All local media outlets include: local television and radio stations; local daily, weekly and monthly newspapers; community newspapers and newsletters; local public access cable television stations; community billboards; school and city or county billboards; printed calendars of community events.

In this age of technology, surely we can create celebratory displays that are thrilling and joyful without endangering our ears, our dogs and cats, and our wild neighbors. There is an evident need to protect both companion animals and wild animals from fireworks harm, and this need is growing with each passing year.

NO to fireworks

Return to Animal Rights Articles
Read more at Entertainment Abuses Articles