Firework incidents involving horses up as charities call for law change

  • More firework-related incidents were reported to the British Horse Society last year than in 2019, as welfare charities call for a change in the law.

    Concerns were raised last year that owing to the pandemic and public displays being cancelled, more people would hold displays at home. BHS statistics show that 193 firework-related incidents were reported last year, compared to 117 in 2019. 56 incidents have been reported so far in 2021. Since 2015, 22 horses have died and 197 have been injured in firework-related incidents.

    “With only one in 10 incidents estimated to be reported, these numbers could be much higher,” said BHS director of safety Alan Hiscox.

    “We are urging equestrians to report any incidents involving fireworks, regardless of severity, using the BHS Horse i app. Reporting helps us to better understand the rate of incidents.”

    Mr Hiscox added that the society urges anyone planning to set off fireworks to attend a display instead. He said for horse owners it is important to be aware of displays nearby and to let organisers know the location of horses.

    “You can inform them of the challenges horses and other animals face and ask if there are any extra precautions they can take to ensure the animals’ safety, such as low-noise fireworks,” he said.

    In Scotland new laws came into force in June restricting the times of day fireworks can be bought and let off, and the volume that can be sold to the public. The Scottish Government also held a consultation this summer on proposed further legislation including conditions at point of sale and no-firework zones (news, 28 June). As H&H went to press the results of the consultation had not been published.

    World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers told H&H Scotland is “leading the way”.

    “We believe it is possible to enjoy celebrating with fireworks when displays are licensed, and controls set. World Horse Welfare, alongside other animal welfare charities, is calling for a nationwide change in legislation, as the current laws across Great Britain do not do enough to protect our animals, including equines,” he said.

    “We urge that England and Wales follow suit with these controls [proposed by the Scottish Government] to ensure that firework displays are well organised, well controlled and animals are kept out of danger.”

    According to RSPCA figures, 55% of horses in the UK show signs of anxiety when they hear fireworks and this year the RSPCA launched a #BangOutofOrder incident-reporting survey to map incidents so the charity can gain a better understanding of how it can help.

    “I ask owners to please report incidents to this site and to BHS as well,” said RSPCA equine welfare expert Mark Kennedy. “We have also written to councils across the country to provide a toolkit to raise awareness of animal welfare during this time of year.”

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