Fireworks and animals – what can you do if they distress your animals?


Many people live in fear of the November fireworks period because of the noise created by fireworks, which may distress children and the elderly, and inevitably leads to extreme distress in household pets and other large animals such as horses and ponies.

The distress caused to people and animals by the noise of the fireworks is one of the reasons why The Fireworks Act 2003 was introduced. The Act aimed to reduce the noise, nuisance and anti-social use of fireworks.

Before the 2003 Act was introduced, the regulatory framework was considered unsatisfactory as it did not deal with the use of fireworks during anti-social times; the time of year of the sale/supply restrictions; and, the mandatory training of firework operators.

The main objective of The Fireworks Act 2003 is to reduce the risk of fireworks causing death, injury or distress – either to persons or animals. The Act principally deals with noise control, nuisance and safety risks that arise from the irresponsible use of fireworks in the street and other public places. This is potentially relieving news for persons affected by the noise created by fireworks, as if the Act is successful in achieving its objectives, the distress that fireworks cause to animals should be reduced.

The Act received Royal Assent on 18 September 2003. It enables the Government to:

• impose a noise limit of 120 decibels on fireworks available to the public;
• ban the use of fireworks during anti-social hours;
• license people who sell fireworks;
• allow local authorities to refuse and revoke licences if retailers act inappropriately;
• create a compulsory training course for operators of public firework displays.

The Fireworks (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 came into force on 8 June 2004. The regulations extend the provision of prohibition of certain fireworks such as air bombs. They also make amendments to the definitions of air bomb and mini rocket and prevent firework suppliers from selling fireworks to persons under the age of 18 (instead of persons who appear to be under 18). This should therefore prevent the misuse of certain fireworks by under 18’s. In reality however, how is it possible to police a private firework display which is in a public area, and exceeds 120 decibels? And how can we police such a display taking place during anti-social hours. The likelihood, in my opinion, is that the display will be over by the time the police arrive at the scene.

Whilst the retailer may have his license revoked for selling fireworks to under 18’s, what is the penalty for a person who is over 18 buying fireworks on behalf of a person under 18?