Owners’ terror as more firework incidents reported: 500,000 call for change

Owners and campaigners agree the law surrounding fireworks “clearly” needs to change as more injured and distressed horses have been reported as a result of recent terrifying incidents.

Details posted on social media have included a horse found dead, cases of injured and escaped horses, and fireworks displays held next door to stable yards.

Newcastle-based Lorraine Robinson’s three-year-old Welsh section-C mare Keira was admitted to a vet hospital on Tuesday morning (5 November) after being found in a river two miles from her yard.

“We believe fireworks scared her, she jumped the fence and she ended up being swept away in a river,” she told H&H.

Lorraine said Keira was treated for impaction colic and assessed for potential liver failure.

“It has been really worrying. Her breathing became difficult and she had to be placed on an inhaler. It looks like her liver was suffering from trauma but she is now showing signs of improvement,” she said.

“We haven’t been able to identify where the fireworks were let off, but believe it’s either been nearby farmland or houses. The lights can be just as scary for them as the noise. I don’t think we’ll ever get a total ban, but I think events should have an assessment beforehand to assess the risk to animals and wildlife.”

Gemma Young from Liverpool told H&H she had to sedate her 35-year-old rescue horse Merlin on Wednesday (5 November) when he became distressed after almost three weeks of fireworks in the area.

35-year-old Merlin

“It’s been awful,” she said. “The other week teenagers threw fireworks through a hedge and just missed some stables.

“Merlin began wheezing on Wednesday and I thought he was going to hurt himself; now any little bang is upsetting him. You don’t want to have to sedate an elderly horse because that has risks as well. You can’t be sedating every day for weeks.”

Gemma said more displays are scheduled in the area for this weekend.

“I’ve got nothing against people who want to go and see fireworks, but at the end of the day these are something that could kill a horse. It should be animal-friendly displays with quiet fireworks only,” she said.

“This year has been worse. You’ve got hundreds of people randomly letting fireworks off for weeks.”

An 11-year-old rider was thrown from her pony while warming up for an evening dressage competition in Cornwall yesterday (7 November).

Kate Wedlake told H&H her daughter Zenna was thrown from her 14.2hh Welsh section-D when she reared and bolted after a property next to the show centre let off fireworks.

“It was terrifying for my daughter. She was in the warm-up alone while I paid for her class and the next thing fireworks went off – they were as loud as a gun,” she said.

Kate’s daughter Zenna

“Zenna was bruised but very lucky not to have been seriously injured. She got back on but then they let off more fireworks 30 minutes later when she was next to go in her class. We agreed it was best to go home.”

Kate posted about the incident online and said two other riders fell off at the same venue owing to fireworks.

“Fireworks can do so much damage. If it was only organised displays allowed at least you would know when and where they are and can be prepared. It’s been crazy with people firing them off constantly.”

World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers told H&H the law “clearly needs” to change, and said the response from the Parliament Committee  which has submitted a report to to be considered by the new government, is a “positive step”.

“Particularly the recommendations that the decibel level limit of consumer fireworks is reviewed and that national awareness campaigns are carried out to help educate the public in how to use fireworks responsibly,” he said.

“Around three quarters of those who have responded to our current survey so far say their horse is stressed by fireworks. This is often impossible to manage as fireworks are being set off over a longer timescale – sometimes over the course of a month with no warning so owners cannot predict when they need to take extra safety measures,” he said.

“While we understand why many people want a total ban on fireworks; finding a middle ground solution and allowing those who enjoy fireworks to do so responsibly, with minimal stress to animals, is a more realistic solution.”

Fireworks campaigner Julie Doorne, whose petition calling for the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) to review firework rules to protect animals from injury and distress has reached more than 550,000 signatures since it launched in 2018, said the public have become more vocal about a change to firework use.

“I’m aiming for one million signatures and once we get there I will be asking for a meeting with the OPSS – they can’t ignore one million people,” she said.

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“The number of people videoing and sharing incidents has ballooned,” she said. “I truly believe 80% of the country is fed up of fireworks. I had to come off Twitter the other evening because of the number of distressing videos I saw – and I’m used to seeing these types of things.”

Julie said the Fireworks Abatement group, run by volunteers Julie, Jill Cutsforth, Sue Kerr and Nicky Williams, has recorded 287 incidents and reports on fireworks since October.

“When the new government comes in I want to start a campaign and encourage people to write to their MPs.”

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