Fireworks terror for Scotland’s animals

by Emma Cameron


As the firework season gets underway and the showery weather continues across the country, the Scottish SPCA is urging worried pet owners to contact their local MSP and back the Society’s proposals for a change to the laws on the sale of fireworks and their unlicensed use in public.

At present, fireworks can be used in public on any day of the year between the hours of 07.00 and 23.00 GMT, with the laws further relaxed around major occasions such as 5 November and New Year’s Eve.

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn explained that it’s not a total ban on fireworks that the charity wants to see, but a restriction on the days it’s legal to use fireworks and they are calling out for tighter laws on the sale of rockets and catherine wheels.

He said to Edinburgh Napier that: “Because the current legislation is so relaxed, fireworks can and are being set off on any given day and for weeks and months on end rather than being limited to the major festival periods. This leaves pet owners unable to make adequate safety provisions for their animals.”

Scotland’s animal welfare charity is being inundated with reports of animals being seriously injured as a result of the terrifying sounds of fireworks. This week, a cat in Ayrshire had to be put down after a group of youths strapped a firework to its back and set it alight.

In addition to changing the law on when fireworks can be used, which is devolved to the Scottish Government, the SSPCA is pushing for changes on when they can be sold, legislation which is reserved to Westminster. At present, fireworks can be sold from 15 October to 10 November, from 26 to 31 December and on the days of Chinese New Year and Diwali and the three preceding days.

Chief Superintendant Flynn added: “Clearly our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of domestic and wild animals, but we believe these proposals, if successful, would also have a real human benefit and assist the emergency services, particularly around the ever challenging month of November.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is also reminding people to take care with bonfires and fireworks. Nicola Butters, RoSPA’s home safety development officer in Scotland, said: “Whether you’ll be setting off fireworks in the run up to November 5, on Thursday itself or at the weekend, it’s important that you think in advance about how you’re going to keep everyone safe.”

The SSPCA is encouraging MSPs to take action on the responsibility of the use of fireworks, to safeguard both animals and people. An SNP spokesperson said to Edinburgh Napier News that: “We will continue to act on irresponsible use of fireworks, which is a misery and a blight on the lives of the vast majority of the population and also of course particularly affects pet owners. It is simply Anti-Social behaviour and although I think the situation has improved we must be vigilant on this issue.”

The SSPCA recommends that during the firework season:

  • All pets should be kept indoors after dark, including animals in outdoor hutches.
  • Curtains should be closed and televisions and radios left on to mask the sounds of fireworks.
  • Anyone planning a display, particularly in rural areas, should warn their neighbours in advance.
  • Bonfires should be checked for signs of hibernating hedgehogs.
  • Telephone our Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999 if you know of animals suffering due to fireworks.

And for humans, remember to:

  • Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
  • Never return to a firework once it has been lit
  • Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
  • Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
  • Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.

See for more tips on planning a safe party.