Impact of fireworks on animals

It’s the time of year again where my Facebook feed fills up with admonishments not to light fireworks, so as not to disturb animals both wild and domestic.

However, these posts are usually light on quantitative data. And really, it’s about an hour of noise one night of the year. So I can’t help but wonder: how much am I really hurting local wildlife with my firecrackers? And what’s the impact on domestic animals, beyond hiding out under the bed for a while?

Am I just a rotten bastard for wanting a bit of a spectacle on a special occasion? What does the data say?

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Can only speak for my own hound. He’s thunderphobic, which applies also to fireworks. One session doesn’t harm him - he gets terrorized and goes to hide somewhere. But I can tell you that by the end of summer here in Virginia, (thunderstorm season and the 4th of July) he has full-blown PTSD. Constantly on edge, stressed out, jumping at the smallest noises.

Like many, I used to think thunderphobia was triggered by the owners making a fuss over the dog. But we don’t fuss over him. He gets terrorized to the point of pissing, and runs for the basement. If a storm happens when we’re not home, he tries to open the garage door. I’m not sure if he’s trying to get out of the house or trying to find us. (We see him on pet cameras we put up.)

So yes, it’s a thing.

It’s not just the temporary noise. Remember that there is lots of trash and debris involved with fireworks.

I have only anecdotal data. It varies quite a bit. None of my current three dogs care at all. I have had dogs be terrified out of their skins however, and that is more common.

My horse also panics. When I go out to her paddock on July 5th it is splattered with fear-diarrhea. If she could escape she would have run without stopping all night.

Because I am always on the side of the victim, no matter who that is, I would ban fireworks entirely if I were queen.

Another with only anecdotes.

I’ve had cats and dogs. On the whole more of my cats, over the years, are disturbed by fireworks. Out of three dogs, only the first one was scared.

But I am usually with my pets on NYE, so one of the dogs that was scared at first calmed down when I cuddled him on my lap. And believe me, this neighborhood is noisy!

I don’t dispute that there are animals that are terrified by fireworks (after all, there are humans who are), but being scared isn’t in itself necessarily harmful, especially when it comes to fears that are equally triggered by thunderstorms. There’s lots of those, and by and large, animals are presumably just fine; an hour or two of noise on top of that seems hardly a big worry.

Additionally, almost every indulgence or luxury has costs, whether in terms of environmental damage, exploitation of labour, or what have you. So in all of these cases, we must weigh the costs against the benefits.

But really, I was hoping for specific data regarding impact—spooked dogs running into traffic, bird’s nests being abandoned, that sort of thing. Are there additional animal fatalities? What other consequences are there?

One thing I found is a study on the effect of fireworks on zoo animals, which didn’t seem to care all that much:

You can train horses and dogs to cope. Here’s a video of a historical re-enactor starting the process with his horse.

Too many groups just use hired riding stable hacks, which don’t know it isn’t for real.

My last dog used to bark at fireworks (which seem to go on for weeks these days) the others didn’t seem to care.

From experience with animal humane organizations, one impact of fireworks on animals (cats & dogs) is that they are often frightened into panicked running away from their homes, escaping from their house or yard and running until they can’t find their way home. Reports of lost or runaway pets peak around the Independence Day holiday in the US, when many fireworks are shot off.

Maybe for you. I can attest that in other areas it’s a multi-hour thing (from darkness until just after midnight). with sporadic bursts (1-2 families playing around) throughout the evenings before and after. I strongly suspect this type of behavior is much more common than the restraint you practice. Also, in urban and suburban areas, you’ll hear them in all directions since almost everybody lights them off.

There were birds who fell out of the sky and died in Arkansas a few years ago. Some think fireworks caused it. I’m not sure.
My dogs at the moment don’t care. We don’t hear a bunch of noise we’re so far out. But they’ve heard Mr.Wrekker shooting in his gun range as long as they’ve been alive. It doesn’t seem to bother them. The cats on the other hand. Every little thing affects their life and they protest loudly. Nothing like 2 Siamese cats in full voice. Believe me.

That’s the sort of thing I’m looking for. However, the statistics I am able to locate don’t immediately bear this out, it seems: the numbers here seem about the same across June, July, and August. The same goes for the roadkill data I’ve so far dug up.

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Imagine animals in warzones where the sound of explosioms is constant

This year in my area there were two local horses (separate places) who broke through fences and were lost for some days after New Year’s Eve festivities. Loose horses and cattle often get on roads and get hit by cars – these were found and caught, luckily. There were quite a few posts on my FB page about missing dogs, as well. And New Year’s is generally quite a bit quieter than 4th of July.

As a side note, my dad, a retired small-newspaper publisher and hence in the know about many things, informed me that those city fireworks displays are astonishingly expensive. He wondered if the citizenry would be so enthusiastic about them if they knew what a chunk they took out of city budgets twice a year.

Like how much? Our city does one every year for our summer festival and it was $10k this year, up from $8k. And it was quite nice.

Granted, that’d be a lot more of a “chunk” from a village budget or a very poor city but … it’s not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This. I can only offer anecdotes, but on New Year’s Eve we had people going door to door trying to find (or return) lost animals. Even one of my dogs dug a hole and squeezed under the fence to escape, which is a behavior I’ve literally never seen from her before.

Even the dogs who did not flee were terrified. After seeing the effects fireworks have on them, I have come to despise fireworks with a passion.

He quoted a figure of $25K for a small city. Which considering how all the towns out here are struggling with things like funding sewage treatment, equipment garages, homeless shelters, etc., that would be a lot of money.

None of the towns out here are wealthy. The manufacturing and agricultural bases are mostly gone and all that’s really left are services, private and public schools & colleges, and catch as catch can.

Anecdotally, my Cocker Spaniel hadn’t had the gundog bred out of her, so she loved fireworks. She would pee with excitement. However, she would look at you as if you were simple if you didn’t shoot the rabbit she just pointed on. Her life was incomplete until we got another Cocker to kill things with her, but she still missed me using a shotgun in suburban Chicago.