Whether you call it Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes night, Thursday the 5th November is a date that many pet owners and animal lovers dread. And it isn’t just the night itself – it is the weeks leading up to and after it as well!

Bonfire Night is a tradition where bonfires are lit and fireworks are let off to celebrate the failed attempt in 1605 in blowing up Parliament and the King as a protest against King James I and his views on Catholicism being a form of superstition. One of the main “Gunpowder Plot” leaders was Guy Fawkes, and along with a number of others he had planned to leave over 30 barrels of gunpowder underneath the House of Lords with the hope of restoring the Catholic religion. Once the plan had been discovered, he and his co-conspirators were found guilty of high treason with the punishment being death by hanging, drawing and quartering. So is he a hero or villain? Well in the months afterwards, confusingly, Londoners lit celebratory bonfires after the executions, and then Parliament declared the 5th of November as a thanksgiving which we still celebrate 400 years later!

Every year, local neighbourhoods and towns hold large fireworks displays and they can even be purchased for private backyard celebrations. They can be purchased from the 15th of October to the 10th of November and from the 26th to 31st of December. Legally, fireworks cannot be let off between 11.00pm and 7.00am except for certain nights of the year.

Firework displays are so common nowadays that it is hard to look out at the night sky and not see it lit up with every different colour exploding sideways accompanied by the loud unmistakable bang in November.

It is this bang that had over half a million people petition to ‘protect animals from injury and distress’ and try to have the rules around fireworks changed. Because fireworks are sold for a limited time between October and November, and in the few days before New Years, Diwali and Chinese New Year, it means many people can buy a lot and stockpile them to use whenever they want.

Although 62% of dogs (RSPCA, 2020) show signs of fear when they hear fireworks (they hear higher pitched sounds than us at over 4 times the distance humans can hear!), but it isn’t just cats and dogs that are stressed by the sights and sounds of fireworks – there are other types of pets like birds and horses, livestock and also wildlife which are frightened by them (and some can’t run and take cover inside!). Horses often run through stable doors and gallop into fences – in the last 10 years in the UK, the British Horse Society reported 20 deaths, 10 severe injuries, and 88 mild to moderate injuries in horses in fireworks incidents.

The best way to help your clients help their pets during fireworks season is to start preparing them beforehand to get used to the loud noises and a slightly different evening routine. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite Bonfire Night tips:

  • Walk dogs late in the afternoon during fireworks seasons before the evening events start.
  • Create a safe space (like a crate, or a blanket over the dining table) or a room with hiding places, curtains that can be pulled shut and somewhere where a TV or radio can be played. Use calming pheromone plug in or sprays in these areas too.
  • Closing windows and curtains will help to muffle the sounds of fireworks.
  • Use Sounds-Scary sound therapy which plays the noises at a volume you can control leading up to Bonfire Night so pets can get used to the sounds slowly.
  • Bring rabbits and guinea pigs inside overnight. Provide some burrowing material for them.
  • Ideally avoid leaving the house around Bonfire Night so pets can be comforted.
  • Close and lock cat flaps and provide a litter tray.
  • As a precaution, encourage owners to get collars for their cats and dogs to wear with a nametag, and also ensure the microchip details are up to date.

It would be easy to share these tips to your clients by posting on your practices’ Facebook page – Do you have any tips on helping pets get through fireworks season? Let us know!

You can also support and share the RSPCAs #BangOutOfOrder campaign to change firework regulations to make them safer for animals!