Protecting farm animals on Bonfire Night

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Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it is illegal to light fireworks near fields or homes containing horses and livestock. Unfortunately, due to the loud noises they emit and those evading the law, this doesn’t stop fireworks from scaring animals up and down the country.

Animals often panic and flee at the sound of loud noises, which can put them in very dangerous scenarios, including injuries on nearby fences and equipment, running out into roads, stampedes and losing their young. In 2018, around 1 in 14 vets attended to an animal with a fireworks-related injury and this increased to 1 in 5 for equine vets.

Have a long-term plan

If you keep animals which are easily spooked by loud noises, it’s worth discussing management and treatment with your vets in advance. Unfortunately, fireworks and other loud noises aren’t just limited to Bonfire Night alone, so it certainly helps to seek longer term treatment. In many instances, anxiety resulting from fireworks can be treated with behaviour-modification techniques.

BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said: “Fireworks season can be a fun time for many people, but the loud noises and bright flashes can be extremely traumatic for many animals, who have no way of understanding what is happening.

“Preparing ahead is key to keeping livestock calm and safe, from discussing noise desensitisation techniques with your vet and preparing a ‘safe place’, to microchipping and investing in pheromone products.”

Keep animals in appropriate housing

If you’re aware of any firework events in your area, or are expecting them from neighbours, keep all animals inside during this period. The only exception may be horses, who often feel more confident out in their field, rather than feeling trapped in their stable. Just ensure there are no spots in your fencing where your horse can escape. If you do stable your horse, it can help to keep a radio playing outside the stable to mask noises further afield. Stay with your horses as long as you can during Bonfire Night to keep them calm.

Recognise signs of distress

Knowing the signs of distress can alert you should your animals become at real risk of endangering themselves during fireworks. Listen out for them being more vocal that usual and look out for sign of restlessness, refusal to lay down, grouping together, loud breathing, seizures and surging movements. Many animals will be soothed by the presence of someone they trust, so it helps to have an experienced worker around to deal with any incidents.

Following a firework event, make sure to check your fields for any dangerous firework debris and clear it away before allowing them to roam. Do not rest on your laurels following Bonfire Night, it pays to be vigilant throughout this period in case of follow-up events.