The owner of a pony who died in “terror and agony” at New Year after fireworks were let off by a neighbouring property, is calling for tougher legislation.
Claire Buchanan was woken at midnight by the sound of fireworks coming from the cottage that borders her property, which had been rented out for Hogmanay.
“The sky was lit up and it wasn’t just one or two small fireworks, they were relentless. Five or six were going off at once and they sounded like the big industrial ones. I could see my horses in the field cantering around and I ran down to the cottage and asked the people to stop. A man said they would but he didn’t seem bothered, it was like I was inconveniencing them,” Claire told H&H.
“When I got back I checked my 21-year-old gelding Tango and my donkeys Claudia and Zeus, who are stabled overnight. Tango was really agitated and spinning around. He eventually calmed down, but when I went back to check on him he had started to sweat. I took him out to walk him but he started spinning around in terror again.”
Claire said Tango’s condition deteriorated, and the gelding went down and started kicking at his stomach. Claire’s vet attended but nothing could be done to save Tango, and the gelding was put down owing to colic.
“The vet said it was the kindest option,” she said. “That first firework going off had sealed his fate.”
Claire phoned the owner of the property, who told her he would contact the guests staying in the cottage and tell them about Tango’s death, but no one came to apologise to Claire.
“An apology would have gone a long way – it’s got nothing to do with the vet bill, it’s about accountability. There is no way the guests didn’t know there were horses and livestock – they’re not hidden away. The upstairs of the cottage looks directly on to my field. The people arrived before New Year’s Eve and if they had told me beforehand, I could have done something,” she said.
“The owner has said going forward he will put something in the welcome pack for guests asking them not to set off fireworks but how many people will read it? Every time I see a car arrive, am I going to need to go and ask people not to let off fireworks?”
Claire reported the incident to the police but was told nothing could be done. She also reported it to the SSPCA, and was told that because she had not filmed the fireworks or Tango, no action could be taken.
“The SSPCA spoke to my vet who confirmed Tango died from colic, but because the vet wasn’t there when the fireworks went off it isn’t proof,” said Claire, who also logged the incident with the British Horse Society.
“The SSPCA said I should put some posters up saying there are horses here. So the onus falls on the horse owner that’s done nothing wrong to do something to prevent people letting off fireworks by their horses,” said Claire.
Claire has contacted her MSP and has started a petition calling for tougher legislation on private firework displays. She would like the sale of fireworks to the public banned, and for the legal requirements that govern public displays to apply to private. Sign the petition here.
“These things are killing animals, it’s as simple as that. Tango died in terror and in agony, and for what? It beggars belief. There is no help for anyone going through this. I hope if we can push the issue through the Scottish parliament, then changes can be made.”
The Animal Welfare Act states it is an offence to cause “any unnecessary suffering to a captive or domestic animal” but a Police Scotland spokesman told H&H the Act does not apply in this case, and no crime has been committed. The spokesman added that there is “nothing in law” that prevents setting off fireworks in neighbouring properties to horses and livestock.
An SSPCA spokesman told H&H it is legal to set off fireworks at any time between 6pm and 1am on New Year’s Eve but the charity urges anyone doing so to think about the people and animals who may be around them.
In December H&H reported the findings of a Scottish Government fireworks consultation regarding proposals to introduce tougher legislation, including no-firework zones and mandatory conditions at the point of sale of fireworks. The Scottish Government has pledged to take forward the Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Bill, at the “earliest opportunity”.
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