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Pets suffer from firework distress

PET OWNERS are demanding Government action after severe trauma suffered by the pets on Bonfire Night last Saturday and in the period leading up to an immediately after November 5th.

The RSPCA is leading the call for action after the charity recorded an 82 per cent increase in the number of calls 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. In the previous five-day period (Sunday 30 October until Friday 4 November) the RSPCA received 117 calls involving animals and fireworks.

In 2004, 88 calls were received during the same period.

Reported incidents this year include:

* A cat is believed to have died after having fireworks tied to it.
* Two tethered horses were seen rearing up and galloping in circles due to loud fireworks being set off nearby.
* Children were seen throwing fireworks at a tethered horse.
* A gull was rescued after being injured by firework
* A terrified horse escaped from the field where it was tethered and was running loose in a street.
* A hedgehog needed veterinary treatment after being hit by a firework.
* A Canada goose was injured when a firework hit it.

The Society believes the increasing number of incidents proves the Government should do more to combat the suffering fireworks cause animals.

New RSPCA-commissioned research, revealed in the report entitled ‘Keep The Noise Down’, concludes that a noise limit of 97 decibels (dBAI) should be set 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.

Tim Miles, the RSPCA's chief veterinary adviser, said: "Thousands of animals up and down the country suffer distress or injury every year because of firework noise. 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 which are registered as Category Two under the British Standards mark."

However, a proposed EU Directive could result in a Europe-wide maximum noise level of 120 decibels for fireworks available to the public for private displays. This could prevent the UK Government setting its own, lower, noise limit in future - unless there is a clause in the Directive that allows member states to set noise limits they consider appropriate.

However, the EU Directive has not yet been published in draft form, so there is nothing to stop the Government setting a lower maximum noise level now and for a provision to be included in the Directive allowing member states to set their own noise limits.

Mr Miles added: "The government must ensure regulations go far enough to reduce distress to animals and a clause should also be included in the EU Directive that allows member states to set their own maximum noise limits for fireworks."

Although the Society welcomed the UK Government's firework regulations introduced last year, it was disappointed with the set noise limit of 120 decibels. It's hoped that this noise limit will be lowered, but the RSPCA fears the government may not act because the Directive is on the horizon.

The RSPCA is working with David Amess MP to introduce a Ten Minute Rule Bill into Parliament which calls for the regulations to be amended with regard to firework noise. It is expected that the Bill will be introduced into Parliament in December.

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.

Anti-firework campaigner Teresa Kulkarni from Kings Lynn, Norfolk has been seeking a total ban on the retail sale of fireworks for three years. In 2004, she presented a 92,000-name signature to Downing Street calling for such a ban, but received no response from the Prime Minister or the Government.

Half-hearted

Teresa has since launched another petition that has already garnered over 90,000 signatures.
Teresa, 38, told OUR DOGS: "We must do something about the Government’s half-hearted measures. We have already collected a further 90,000 signatures and have decided that this response justifies us continuing to collect signatures up to the end of January 2006. I urge every pet owner whose pet has suffered as a result of fireworks to sign this petition and to lobby their MP.

"It’s high time this Government woke up and realised what the people want. They want a ban on the retail sale of high explosives, because that’s what they are."

Teresa’s petition is now calling to amend the Fireworks Laws in order to:

1. Restrict fireworks to licensed organised displays only at certain times of year
2. To include Garden Fireworks in the restricted category
3. To reduce the decibel limit to a maximum of 85db for all fireworks including display fireworks
4. To make it illegal to use or possess fireworks without a valid licence

* To download a petition form and write to Teresa about any accidents you have experienced with fireworks (press cuttings will also help) contact her at tc.kulkarni@virgin.net or by letter at 1, Methuen Avenue, Gaywood, King's Lynn, Norfolk. PE30 4BN

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

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