Fireworks are a common way of celebrating various occasions, such as New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, Diwali and more. However, while many people enjoy the bright colors and loud noises of fireworks, they can cause serious harm to animals who live outside or near the areas where they are set off. In this blog post, I will explain some of the ways that fireworks affect outside animals and what we can do to reduce their suffering.
Physical damage to the hearing organs of animals
Many animals have much more sensitive hearing than humans, so the explosions of fireworks are not only more disturbing to them, but they can damage their hearing more severely. Fireworks can emit sounds of up to 190 decibels1, which is 110 to 115 decibels above the range where the damage to the human ear begins1. Fireworks generate a higher noise level than gunshots (140 decibels), and some jet planes (100 decibels)1. Noises caused by fireworks and firecrackers can lead to loss of hearing and tinnitus1. Dogs are known to suffer irreversible hearing loss caused by proximity to the noise of gunfire1.
Fear and stress
In addition to these harms, the noises caused by fireworks harm animals by causing fear. In fact, repeated exposure to unexpected, unpredictable loud noises can cause phobias in many animals, increasing panic reactions to loud noises in the future1. It is estimated that one-fifth of disappearances of animals who are companions to humans are due to very loud sounds, mainly fireworks and storms1. The effects of fireworks on animals can be observed very clearly in zoos2. It has been shown that the noise of fireworks makes animals such as rhinos and cheetahs very nervous, also visibly affecting others such as elephants, while rodents continue running minutes after the noises cease2.
Harmful effects by chemical particles
Firecrackers are poisonous, and their explosion releases harmful particles such as fine dust (PM10) that is toxic to inhale. It can worsen existing diseases and cause others1. Therefore, fireworks represent a danger both to animals who live in areas where they explode, or in relatively distant locations when the wind transports the particles1. There is also a risk of ingestion of the residue of fireworks and firecrackers1. The proximity of the animals to the areas where the firecrackers are made often causes burns and damage to the eyes. The chemicals are also dangerous for cats and dogs, just as they are for humans with respiratory diseases such as asthma3. Careless use of fireworks can also cause mutilations and fatal accidents in animals near the event, as well as causing fires that harm animals. When accidents of this type occur that affect humans, it is common for us to talk about it, but we must remember such things often affect animals of other species even when humans aren’t badly affected.
Ways different animals are affected by fireworks
Different animals may react differently to fireworks depending on their species, personality and environment. Here are some examples:
- Dogs: Dogs are able to hear up to 60,000hz, while humans can’t hear anything above 20,000hz1, which is only a third of the capacity of dogs. Dogs may show fear responses to fireworks such as vocalizing, hiding, cowering, shaking and running away4. Some dogs may even try to escape from their homes or yards and get lost or injured.
- Cats: Cats have a similar hearing range as dogs and may also suffer from fear and stress caused by fireworks. Cats may hide under furniture or in dark places, or try to run away from the noise. They may also become more aggressive or defensive towards other animals or humans.
- Birds: Birds have very sensitive hearing and vision and may be startled by the sudden bright flashes and sounds of fireworks. Birds may fly away from their nests or habitats in panic, resulting in more car accidents than normal3. Wildlife rehabilitation centers are often flooded with traumatized, injured and orphaned wild birds after fireworks events3. Fireworks may also cause birds to fly higher and for longer than usual, exposing them to harmful chemicals and using up vital energy reserves needed for survival3. Fireworks have even frightened birds into flying so far out to sea that they did not have the energy to make the return flight3.
- Rodents: Rodents such as mice, rats, squirrels and rabbits may also be scared by fireworks and run away from their homes or burrows. They may also suffer from hearing damage or stress. Rodents are often preyed upon by other animals, so running away from fireworks may expose them to more predators or dangers.
- Farm animals: Farm animals such as cows, pigs, sheep and horses may also be affected by fireworks. They may become agitated, restless, nervous or frightened by the noise and light. They may also injure themselves or others by running into fences, walls or objects. Some farm animals may also suffer from miscarriages or reduced milk production due to stress1.
Alternatives to the use of fireworks
There are many ways to celebrate without harming animals with fireworks. Here are some suggestions:
- Use silent fireworks: Silent fireworks are designed to produce less noise and more light. They can still create a beautiful display without causing distress to animals. However, they may still have some negative effects on the environment and health, so they should be used with caution and moderation.
- Use laser shows: Laser shows are another way to create a dazzling spectacle without noise or smoke. They can be synchronized with music and projected onto buildings, water or sky. Laser shows are safer and more eco-friendly than fireworks, but they may still pose some risks to the eyes of humans and animals if not used properly.
- Use glow sticks: Glow sticks are cheap, easy and fun to use. They can create a colorful and festive atmosphere without any noise or fire. They can also be worn as bracelets, necklaces or decorations. However, glow sticks contain chemicals that can be harmful if ingested by animals or humans, so they should be disposed of carefully and kept away from children and pets.
- Use candles: Candles are another simple and elegant way to celebrate. They can create a warm and cozy ambiance without any noise or pollution. They can also be used to make wishes, prayers or rituals. However, candles can also cause fires or burns if not handled with care, so they should be placed on stable surfaces and kept away from flammable materials, children and animals.
Fireworks are a popular form of entertainment and celebration, but they can cause serious harm to animals who live outside or near the areas where they are set off. Fireworks can damage their hearing, cause fear and stress, expose them to harmful chemicals, injure them or make them lose their homes or lives. There are many alternatives to fireworks that can create a festive and fun atmosphere without harming animals. We should consider the impact of our actions on other beings who share this planet with us and choose more compassionate ways of celebrating.