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Public urged to consider animal welfare during New Year celebrations

RSPCA Cymru is reminding members of the public to consider the needs of animals and their welfare as Wales prepares to welcome in 2023.

Fireworks are a common part of New Year’s festivities – but many animals can find them deeply distressing, and RSPCA Cymru is reminding the public of the many practical steps which can be taken to help protect their welfare.

Pet owners have been urged to plan ahead, with action such as sound-proofing and the provision of safe enclosures all helping to reduce firework phobia among Wales’ companion animals. 

The RSPCA has been running its #BangOutOfOrder campaign for many years and is calling on the UK Government to urgently review firework regulations. Following an RSPCA campaign, 14 local authorities across Wales have implemented measures to mitigate the risks of fireworks in their communities – but, ultimately, the RSPCA is calling for firework legislation to change.

Shelley Phillips, RSPCA campaigns manager, said: “As many of us celebrate the start of 2023, the festivities can also be stressful for many animals – including our pets.

“We’d like to direct those who are worried about their pets to look at our guidance online so they can hopefully undertake some measures to keep their pets safe, and to ease their pets’ fear of loud noises.

“From making sure dogs and cats are indoors when fireworks are likely to be set off, to masking firework noises, and providing pets with a safe place to hide at all times, it’s so important pet owners plan ahead.

“Small animals living outside should be provided with lots of extra bedding to allow for burrowing, whilst parts of their enclosure could be covered with a blanket to provide further sound-proofing and insulation.”

Horses, farm animals and wildlife can also be negatively affected by fireworks. RSPCA Cymru continues to urge organisers of events to avoid letting off fireworks near where animals are kept. Horse owners should check to see if there are going to be any firework displays in their area, and talk to the organisers – explaining there are horses nearby and asking them to set off their fireworks well away from their horses and aimed in the opposite direction.

Equally the animal welfare charity urges people to use lower-noise fireworks if possible, which can make such a difference to make displays safer for everybody. 

RSPCA Cymru is also reminding people as to the possible dangers of using sky lanterns, as part of any New Year celebrations. They can cause injuries to animals which lead to suffering, and even a slow, painful death.

Shelley added: “Sky lanterns, commonly known as ‘Chinese lanterns’, present a significant danger to animals, and can cause injuries which lead to suffering and a slow, painful death. Despite this, they remain popular at New Year in Wales and beyond.

“In Wales we are fortunate that every local authority has put in place a ban on setting them off on their land – but they can still be set off on private land. 

“Risks to animals include ingestion, entanglement and entrapment; whilst lanterns can also cause fire, destroy habitats or damage animal housing and feed. The consequences of a lit or hot lantern landing in stables or barns occupied by horses or farm animals surrounded by dry, flammable bedding and forage are truly horrific to imagine.

“Whilst sky lanterns may look pretty, people need to remember that what goes up, must come down – so, for animals’ sake, we’re urging the public to give sky lanterns a miss this New Year.”

For Wales, presently, fireworks law is a reserved matter – so any policy change would sit with the UK Government. However, a trilateral meeting between the UK Government, Welsh Government and Scottish Government recently took place in relation to future fireworks regulation.

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