‘The Government has to listen’: horse terrified by fireworks breaks his leg in the stable

  • The heartbroken owners of a horse who suffered a catastrophic fatal injury as fireworks were let off nearby have asked why the law has not been changed to save animals’ lives.

    Lea Sands told H&H her daughter Beth’s horse Warrior was “one of the family”. He had to be put down on the spot at the weekend after he broke his leg in his terror.

    Lea said the fireworks were let off very near the private yard their horses are kept on, in Kent, with no warning.

    “People need to know,” she said. “I’m not saying don’t have fireworks, but you can have lovely silent ones. This has to change, at Government level, but they don’t listen to anyone.”

    Lea said the family had bought Warrior as a weanling, two years ago.

    “He was the last of his bloodline, related to my old horse, and he was one of the family,” she said. “He was two and a half and he had to be shot, because of fireworks.”

    Lea and Beth were at the yard when the fireworks started, very close to the stables, at about 7pm, and Lea said they continued intermittently for two and a half hours.

    “If we’d known it was going to happen, we could have sedated them, but he was going completely mad in his stable, so we couldn’t get the sedation into him,” she said. “It wasn’t his fault but he was careering round, rearing.

    “He turned awkwardly and slipped, despite all the bedding. It was like he got caught in his own foot, and just the speed of the movement – I heard it go. I trained as a vet for four years and there was nothing we could do; the bone had come through the skin.”

    Warrior had to be put down immediately.

    “He suffered,” Lea said, adding that when asked to describe Warrior, Beth said simply: “He was my son.”

    Lea added: “I’m no killjoy, if you want to have fireworks, be my guest. But have the silent ones. A venue near us had a display this year and some were silent, and they were lovely.

    “The Government needs to start listening. We’re not asking for the earth.”

    H&H has reported on numerous petitions to the Government, signed by hundreds of thousands of people, calling for tighter restrictions on fireworks. These have been debated in parliament but there has been no law change in England or Wales. Scotland brought in new firework legislation this year.

    A Defra spokesman told H&H the Government “recognises that people want to enjoy fireworks at this time of year, however it is important that they are used responsibly and considerately to protect both people and animals”.

    “There are strict regulations in place to control the sale and use of fireworks, including laws to protect animals from harm. It is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to cause an animal any unnecessary suffering and this includes through the misuse of fireworks. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act came into force on 29th June 2021 and has increased the maximum penalty for cruelty to animals to five years’ imprisonment.

    “Last year the Government, in association with animal welfare organisations, and others, launched its Staying Safe with Fireworks campaign.”

    The spokesman said this campaign included specific advice for horses and rural or farm settings, such as asking people to let neighbours know of fireworks well in advance.

    “We also work closely with welfare charities, including Blue Cross, to provide further advice for animal owners on how to keep their animals safe around fireworks,” the spokesman said.

    “Existing legislation controls the sale, availability and use of fireworks. You cannot buy ‘adult’ fireworks if you’re under 18, and it’s against the law for anyone to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except on certain occasions. Using fireworks outside the curfew hours is a criminal offence enforced by the Police and can lead to imprisonment and a substantial fine. There is also a 120-decibel noise limit on the fireworks available to consumers.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...