Safer fireworks

Horses and fireworks

Fireworks can cause stress and fear in horses and potentially result in severe accidents.

Fireworks can cause stress and fear in horses and potentially result in severe accidents.

Horses are flight animals and will generally try to remove themselves from a stressful or scary situation, such as firework displays. When horses are visibly stressed, nervous, frightened and insecure they are scared.  Flight responses can be particularly dangerous, with the potential to result in severe accidents to the horse and its keeper.  

While we encourage horse owners and carers to follow our advice on how best to manage anxiety during fireworks the unfortunate reality is that it is not always effective due to practical limitations. For example, unlike smaller companion animals it is often difficult to ensure a horse is kept inside during firework displays with distractions, and for some horses being inside may increase levels of stress or make the situation more dangerous. This is further complicated by the lack of warning horse owners receive when private displays are held, as they are unable to plan ahead and put a management system in place.  

It is clear that the current system does not work and changes need to be made to ensure the safety of our horses.

We welcomed Sainsbury’s decision to stop selling fireworks in all its stores, which goes further than our recommendations below. While it is certainly a step in the right direction unless all other the retail stores follow suit, government legislation remains the only practical option.

Fairer fireworks law for horses 

There are a number of changes that can be made to ensure our horses are protected from fireworks and would like Government to consider the following:

  • Reduce the maximum permitted noise level of fireworks for public sale to 97 decibels at 15 metres – the equivalent of a door slamming. This would allow many existing fireworks to still be sold for private use, including most candles, rockets and fountains. 
  • Restrict the use of fireworks, without a licence, to the dates already set-out in existing regulations. This will give certainty to horse owners as to when they need to put in place management systems to help reduce anxiety in their equines while still allowing the public to enjoy private firework displays at key times of the year.  
  • All public and private (i.e. for a wedding) firework displays out with the proposed traditional dates, to be licensed by the relevant licensing authority. As part of the licensing process, the date and time of the proposed display should be centrally published on a searchable website along with confirmation that all efforts have been made to inform local residents and establishments housing animals . Anyone impacted should also be given the opportunity to appeal against the granting of a licence. 
  • Labelling fireworks as ‘loud’ or ‘low noise’ to enable the public to make an informed choice when they purchase them.  We also believe it would be helpful to clearly set-out whether they would be suitable for use in relative proximity to animals and, if they are, at what distance.  Additionally, we suggest that there should be mandatory inclusion of an informative graphic with every firework sale such that the purchaser can have the opportunity to understand the impact fireworks can have on animals and wildlife. 
  • Enforcement agencies should be encouraged to enforce the legislation and to take action against those that do contravene the legislation and cause distress to either animals or people.
Read more:
Sign up for our email newsletter
Sign up now Join over 55,000 other horse lovers
Follow our story on social networks