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SPCA warns of fireworks’ detrimental impact on NZ’s animals

03 November 2020
SPCA warns of fireworks’ detrimental impact on NZ’s animals

It’s one of the loudest celebrations of the year, and SPCA is urging New Zealanders to consider all animals large and small this Guy Fawkes Night.

While some revellers are aware of distress caused to cats and dogs in their neighbourhood, it’s our larger animal companions who are often overlooked when planning firework use.

Each year SPCA receives dozens of calls relating to fireworks, including animal injuries, frightened animals, missing pets and, occasionally, abuse of animals. The organisation has long called for a ban on the private sale and use of fireworks and recently presented our case directly to the Parliamentary Select Committee.

Wainoni Park Pony Club on Auckland’s North Shore is one of many riding facilities who note distress in their horses every year when the celebration rolls around. Sharing how their behaviour is impacted, President Helen Crook says it is a harrowing time of year for everyone with animals, especially horses, and not all neighbouring residents appreciate the havoc it causes.

“The herds will often start running around their paddock and we have had injuries of horses charging through fences and getting cut and in need of veterinary assistance.”

“The younger horses especially, find loud noises very scary and can be on high alert for days after,” she adds.

Horses will generally try to flee a stressful or scary situation which can result in injury if they attempt to jump a fence or climb over a stable door. A recent survey of horse guardians in New Zealand found that 35 percent of respondents reported having horses break through a fence in response to fireworks and more than a quarter of respondents reported horses sustaining injuries.

To minimise stress, SPCA recommends that horses are kept in their usual environments and routines and with familiar companions, unless a fireworks display is planned close by. In that case, owners are encouraged to consider moving horses to another location. Check fencing is secure and check paddocks and stables thoroughly for anything which could cause injury such as protruding nails or string.

If keeping horses inside during nearby displays is preferred, SPCA encourages owners to practice this routine well in advance of Guy Fawkes Night celebrations, as stabling a horse who is used to being outside can cause additional stress. Playing white noise or classical music on a radio outside the stable can mask sudden noises and may be soothing to some horses. Distractions such as the company of a familiar horse, a horse-safe mirror or puzzle balls can also help.

SPCA CEO Andrea Midgen says speaking to neighbours during the planning stages of an event can ensure they have time to prepare accordingly.

“Another way to ensure welfare of not only horses but all companion animals, is to attend controlled public fireworks displays rather than using fireworks at home.”

SPCA recently joined with a range of national organisations and advocates to implore government to end the private sale and use of fireworks in New Zealand. SPCA continues to vocalise its support of the campaign launched by Wellington City Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons to ban the use of fireworks within a two-kilometre radius of Wellington Zoo. The organisation advocates for a total ban on the private sale and use of fireworks in New Zealand.

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