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Tougher laws needed on fireworks, says Bill Esterson MP


Bill Esterson MP is backing calls for stricter laws around fireworks sales. Sefton Central MP Mr Esterson said fireworks were too often misused and were distressing for pets.

He backed calls from the Dogs Trust to restrict fireworks sales to licensed public events, for use only at certain limited times of the year.

Mr Esterson said: “We have had problems in Sefton Central recently with people actually throwing fireworks at cars, pedestrians and even the police. Fireworks are too easy to get hold of and too easy to misuse.

“Anyone with cats or dogs will tell you how distressing it is for them to hear fireworks and not understand what is going on. “I support the Dogs Trust – and many of my constituents who have written to me on this issue – in their call for the sale of fireworks and their use to be restricted and at the very least for the current law to be enforced.

“Quieter fireworks, while better than traditional types, are still noisy enough to be distressing for pets, so although these are preferable, they are not the full solution to this issue.”

Dogs Trust says owners can try to reduce the impact on pets by muffling the noises of the fireworks through closing curtains or placing duvets over their dog’s bed. However, dogs quickly learn that these noises often/usually happen during darkness. Dogs which are very traumatised by noises can therefore start to panic when it starts to grow dark because they are anticipating the perceived threat of the noises again. In these cases it can be extremely difficult for owners to teach a dog not to be afraid, and for a terrified dog to return to ‘normal’ after a night of fireworks because there are lots of other things they might associate with the noises that trigger the feeling of fear and helplessness.

Advice is available on Dogs Trust’s website on how dog owners can take preventative measures to prepare their dogs for the noise of fireworks. - https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/dog-care/fireworks There will be a Westminster Hall debate on Monday (November 8) at 4.30pm to discuss an e-petition on the sale and use of fireworks.


A Dogs Trust YouGov survey of 2000 respondents, April 2018 showed that:

  • 89% agreed domestic pets can be distressed by fireworks

  • 79% said they keep their pets inside to limit distress caused by fireworks

  • Over 50% believed fireworks should be restricted to official displays only

  • Dogs Trust want to see further restrictions around the use and sale of fireworks, limiting them to licensed, public occasions at certain times of the year, and organised events only

· We also recommend that local authorities should take the location of public displays into consideration when granting them a licence and require that they are well publicised in the surrounding area

Current Fireworks Legislation Use:

  • Fireworks can be set off by any adult between 7.00am and 11.00pm every day of the year, except for:

    • Bonfire Night, when the cut off is extended until midnight

    • New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is extended until 1am

  • It is not a legal requirement to have any form of licence or training to let off consumer fireworks

  • It is illegal to set off fireworks in the street or other public places

Sale:

  • Fireworks can only be sold to persons aged 18 years or older

  • Fireworks can be sold at any time of the year and can be bought online

  • A retailer does not need a licence to sell fireworks at the following times:

    • Between 5th October-10th November

    • Between 26th December-31st December

    • The first day of Chinese New Year and the 3 days before it

    • The first day of Diwali and the 3 days before it

The Problem for Dogs Easy access to fireworks means dog owners are facing a constant waiting game when it comes to loud noises and scared pets. Dogs feel safe and secure when they can predict and control their environment, so when unexplained noises happen unexpectedly this can render a dog completely vulnerable and emotionally exposed. In these cases, we may see behaviours such as avoidance – hiding away, not eating, trembling/shaking, panting, not being able to settle, agitation, scrabbling at doors (escape routes) and urination/defaecation. These are a physical manifestation of the body trying to avoid a perceived threat and preparing itself for escape if necessary. We can also see very overt behaviours including barking, spinning, self-trauma such as tail-chewing/tail-licking and destruction. These behaviours occur as dogs try to drive away the perceived threat, redirecting to themselves or other items because the noises do not appear to have a tangible source. These behaviours can be extremely challenging for owners to address because fireworks remain out of their control and therefore, they are unable to remove the triggers for their dog’s fearful behaviour. Owners can try to reduce these triggers by muffling the noises of the fireworks through closing curtains, placing duvets over their dog’s bed etc. However, dogs quickly learn that these noises often/usually happen during darkness. Dogs which are very traumatised by noises can therefore start to panic when it starts to grow dark because they are anticipating the perceived threat of the noises again. In these cases it can be extremely difficult for owners to teach a dog not to be afraid, and for a terrified dog to return to ‘normal’ after a night of fireworks because there are lots of other things they might associate with the noises that trigger the feeling of fear and helplessness. Action Needed

  • We want to see further restrictions around the use and sale of fireworks, limiting them to licensed, public occasions at certain times of the year, and organised events only

  • We also recommend that local authorities should take the location of public displays into consideration when granting them a licence and require that they are well publicised in the surrounding area

  • Whilst quieter fireworks are not the solution to this problem, as close proximity and prolonged exposure can still have a negative impact on the welfare of animals, we believe lower decibel fireworks should be used to reduce the number of animals affected

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