A great spectacle
It’s that time of year again. Next week, the countryside will scream with fireworks and we should all be prepared. True, most of us may enjoy the spectacle. There is something fundamentally appealing about watching the night sky come alive with great sprays of colour. I have a baby daughter and look forward to taking her outside to watch the neighbours’ annual display.
Not all fun and games
But with all the excitement, we shouldn’t forget those who don’t understand the celebrations. Our canine friends, in particular, don’t see it all as fun and games. Every October, Dogs Trust Ireland is inundated with requests for advice on how to keep dogs calm during a fireworks display. This is no laughing matter. Dogs’ hearing is far more sensitive than ours. It is hard to imagine what the screech and bang of a firework must sound like to them, but their response gives us some idea. Typically, when dogs are close to a display, they show symptoms we might associate with a panic attack. They shiver and shake, chew and scratch, soil the house, pant excessively, lick their lips, pace about or attempt to run away.
Minding our dogs
Collie dogs seem to be particularly sensitive, which should be a concern for farmers. There is no way to make this an entirely stress-free period for dogs, but there are some simple things we can do to make it a bit less alarming to them. First of all, it is crucial that dogs are kept indoors at night over the next couple of weeks. Instead of tying them, keep them in a shed or outhouse that is well insulated. It is also advisable to leave them a few bones to chew on, as this will help to keep them occupied.
And, perhaps most importantly of all, if fireworks are being released close by, talk to your dogs to reassure them. From their canine perspective, you are the leader of their pack. They trust you. Your presence and the sound of your voice will help to calm them.
Dogs are not the only animals whose welfare should concern us during the firework season. Loud noises and sudden, violent flashes of light are alarming to livestock, too. This is a delicate time of year for cows and ewes. Many cows are midway through their pregnancy at this stage, while ewes that went to the ram in early September will be at the end of their first trimester. These are crucial stages the animal’s pregnancy, and farmers should try to avoid causing undue stress to their herds and flocks during these weeks. Stress is a known cause of abortion in most animals.
What to do?
Again, it can be hard to know how to avoid disaster, but there are simple preventative measures we can take. First of all, it is worth asking neighbours if they are planning to set off any fireworks this Halloween. If they confirm their intention to release fireworks, you should move animals to fields far away from these neighbours’ premises. It is also advisable to move animals out of roadside fields. Youngsters often release fireworks along the roads over the Halloween period, so an abundance of caution is needed here.
Thanks for reading
For most of us, there is a balance to be struck here. We don’t want to be bad neighbours or spoil somebody else’s fun. At the same time, however, we have a duty of care to our animals and fireworks are a real threat to animal welfare. That’s why we should all have a plan to reduce animal stress levels. Don’t wait until next week. Make your plan now!