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On The Prowl - with Nick Mays

MP wants noisy fireworks ban to protect pets

AN MP has called for a restriction on the sale of noisy fireworks to reduce the trauma experienced by animals.

David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend West, said that the current limit of 120 decibels for fireworks bought over the counter was too high and that animals have more sensitive hearing than humans.

He called for a reduction to 97 decibels, the level of household noises such as doors slamming.
The current regulations, introduced in 2004, had made no difference to the number of calls which the RSPCA received about distressed animals, he said.

Indeed, the charity reported an 82% increase in the number of calls they receive between 4 and 6 November, he added.

Introducing his Fireworks (Amendment) Bill to the House of Commons last month, Mr Amess cited the case of Claire Patterson of Newquay, Cornwall, who was walking her Jack Russell terriers Mabel and Travis on the beach earlier this year when a firework went off.

The dogs bolted and, although Ms Patterson found Travis, Mabel had run to the town centre, where she was run over and died.

Mr Amess added that his own dog Michael, who he described as the “laziest dog, not only in the country, in the world” had “practically jumped out of his skin” on hearing fireworks during Bonfire Night 2005.

Stressed dogs could suffer symptoms including loss of appetite, shaking, whimpering and self-harm, he said.

“These are things that occasionally Members of Parliament might also display,” he added, to laughter.

Expressing a desire not to be seen as a “party pooper”, Mr Amess added that popular fireworks such as roman candles would not be banned under his proposals. His Bill received an unopposed first reading, but stands little chance of becoming law.

Charity backs call for quieter fireworks

Meanwhile, a new RSPCA survey published on 30 December shows that vets treated 3,639 animals for stress caused by fireworks on and around Bonfire Night in 2005. The RSPCA fears this is just the tip of the iceberg and predicted similar fear and misery for pets and wildlife at New Year.

The survey showed that a massive 97 per cent of the vets who responded found that the number of firework-related cases they dealt with this year had either increased or remained the same as in 2004. This indicates that the government’s firework regulations have not helped reduce the distress loud fireworks cause animals.

Vets found that dogs were the pet most affected by fireworks - 88 per cent of cases involved dogs. Ten per cent were cats and two per cent were horses or small animals.

The RSPCA’s chief veterinary adviser Tim Miles said: “The Society believes the increasing number of incidents proves the government should do more to combat the suffering loud fireworks cause animals.

“Vets have told us that dogs showed their fear through barking, hyperventilation, destructive behaviour, loss of appetite, licking or panting, shaking, hiding, whimpering, urination and self-harm. Not only is this distressing for the animal, it is upsetting for owners who have no power to remove the cause of the fear.

“Our research shows this distress could be dramatically reduced if fireworks no louder than 97 decibels were available to the public for private displays. Fireworks don’t have to be loud to be impressive. We urge members of the public to buy low-noise fireworks that are registered as Category Two under the British Standards mark.”

The 190 vets who responded to the survey also reported 34 cases where animals were injured due to fireworks. Also of concern is an 82 per cent increase in the number of calls to the RSPCA about distressed and injured animals on and around Bonfire Night. Between Friday, 4 November 2005 and Sunday, 6 November 2005, 255 calls were made to the RSPCA’s cruelty hotline. During the same period last year, 140 calls were received.

RSPCA commissioned research, revealed in the report entitled ‘Keep The Noise Down’, concluded that a noise limit of 97 decibels (dBAI) should be set for fireworks available for fireworks available for private use by the public. This noise level, similar to that of a car door slamming, would help reduce the distress and suffering loud fireworks cause animals. The current noise limit is 120 decibels - equivalent to a jet aircraft taking off.

Although the Society welcomed the UK government’s firework regulations introduced last year, it was disappointed with the set noise limit of 120 decibels.

The RSPCA is urging members of the public who feel strongly about the distress fireworks cause pets, wildlife and livestock to contact their MP and ask them to write to Consumer Affairs Minister Gerry Sutcliffe.

* For a list of low-noise fireworks and/or to download a copy of the report, you can log on to www.rspca.org.uk/fireworks

Alternatively, you can call the RSPCA’s enquiries line on 0870 3335 999.