Survey result: fireworks outside New Year’s Eve disastrous for animal welfare

- EN - NL

The period when fireworks are set off should be limited as much as possible to New Year’s Eve, to prevent long-term animal suffering from fireworks. Now many pets are faced with unpredictable bangs for weeks-or even months. This causes fear and stress in a proportion of pets, for which there is no effective solution. That’s according to a large-scale survey (article in Dutch) in which more than 3,600 pet owners participated.

For dogs and cats, fireworks are more than a year-end problem. In a survey conducted by the Behavioral Clinic for Animals of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University, in which more than 3,000 dog owners and 600 cat owners participated, more than half report hearing fireworks in the habitat from September. From November through January, more than three-quarters of the participants did. Over the past three years, fireworks noise increased for more than half of the participants. For a third it remained the same and for less than ten percent it decreased.

Thus, fireworks are a part of the habitat of many dogs and cats for a long period of time during the year, and their effects can be significant. More than three-quarters of the survey participants indicated that fireworks result in anxiety and/or stress for their animal, in both dogs and cats.

Hiding behavior

Hiding behavior is especially noticeable in these animals, which is even more common in cats than in dogs. Dogs seek more eye contact and proximity with owners. Fleeing is also commonly seen and involves risk. Five percent of dogs and nearly 10 percent of cats have ever been lost after hearing fireworks.

Animal anxiety experiences persist for half an hour after the fireworks sound and for about a third for more than half an hour. About a third of cats and more than half of dogs prefer not to go outside after hearing fireworks. Especially for dogs that need to be taken out to do their needs, this is a major source of stress, even for the owners.

Help

Owners try to help their animals in various ways. Providing support and comfort and taking away fireworks perception are often mentioned, in both dogs and cats. Many owners give their cat and/or dog shelter and many owners adjust walking times with their dogs. In both species, distractions are also offered through play and/or food.

Despite seeking various ways to help the animals, they do not seem to be sufficiently effective. Many interventions often do not see a lasting positive effect. This includes nutritional supplements, homeopathic remedies, pheromones and even behavioral medications. The more favorable outcomes are for providing support and shelter opportunities for the animal and seeking out fireworks-free areas, such as through a vacation home in a quieter environment.

Researcher Ineke van Herwijnen: "Based on this survey, we cannot determine the percentage of Dutch pets that experience anxiety and stress. The survey was widely distributed, but it cannot be ruled out that especially people who experience distress participated. What we can conclude is that it is of great importance for dogs and cats, and their owners, to narrow the period in which fireworks can be heard. That one night in the year, many pet owners can still find a solution for that. However, having to contend with fireworks for months on end is a great source of stress for pet owners and is accompanied by welfare problems for some of the pets in the Netherlands, for which hardly any solutions exist.

So actually the problem around fireworks for animals is too big to make it treatable. Too many animals cannot adapt to the frequency, duration and intensity of the noise.

Claudia Vinke