Fireworks. That glorious spectacle used to celebrate everything from the Kentucky Derby to the Super Bowl, from weddings to the New Year. In America, fireworks are most frequently used to commemorate Independence Day. And while they offer exciting, heart-pounding entertainment to humans, their effects on animals, both wild and domestic, can be traumatizing.
According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service those thunderous explosions are often seen as a threat to wildlife, causing many species to flee. Animals can run into roadways; birds fly into buildings and sometimes abandon their nests leaving their young exposed to predators and the elements. Additionally, the physical remnants of fireworks can cause harm, destroying habitats through wildfires and releasing poisonous chemicals; their debris can be ingested causing choking or toxicity in wildlife. It is important to note that consumer fireworks are prohibited in all national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.
If you plan to shoot off your own fireworks, there are a few simple things you can do to minimize their effect. Plan ahead by removing bird baths and bird feeders several hours before lighting fireworks which will discourage them from being in the area. Wait until after dusk to avoid prime feeding time and do not use fireworks near trees, birdhouses, or brush piles where birds and animals live. And be sure to clean up all debris (casings, paper, matches, ash, etc.) promptly.
But what about our pets? How can we help them through these celebrations? First, as tempting as it may be, do not take your pets with you when attending fireworks displays. The noise combined with unfamiliar surroundings and large crowds can frighten pets and cause them to run away. This happens frequently during fireworks celebrations so make sure your dogs and cats are wearing up-to-date identification tags and that you have a current photo.
Pets should be kept inside, in a room where they feel safe and cannot flee. Keep the curtains and blinds closed. Consider using white noise (radio or TV turned on well in advance of the fireworks). And if your cat or dog whines and wants to hide, let them. An anxiety vest can be a great tool as well to help comfort your pet. Even small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and birds can feel the stress of fireworks. Move their cages to a quiet indoor room (or face the cage to a wall if outside) and provide extra bedding. Cover cages with thick blankets. For horses and other livestock, make sure pasture fences are secure and consider having horses wear a safety halter labeled with your contact information.
A few simple precautions can lower stress and prevent harm for animals of all kinds during fireworks celebrations.