With around 40% of the UK's dogs being scared of fireworks, many owners often need to plan ahead and take steps to help keep their dog calm and safe in the weeks preceding Bonfire Night.
The element of surprise is a key factor in why dogs find fireworks uniquely distressing. If dog owners can anticipate fireworks they can manage the distress in a way that works for their dog. It is not uncommon for dog owners to travel to avoid displays.
- Easy access to fireworks means dog owners are facing a constant waiting game when it comes to loud noises and scared pets
- Dogs feel safe and secure when they can predict and control their environment, so when unexplained noises happen unexpectedly, such as those caused by fireworks, this can be extremely stressful for dogs
- In these cases, we may see behaviours such as avoidance (e.g. hiding away, not eating and agitation) and overt behaviours (e.g. barking, spinning, tail chewing) that occur as dogs try to drive away from the perceived threat
- These behaviours can be extremely challenging for owners to address because fireworks remain out of their control and therefore they are unable to remove the triggers for their dog’s fearful behaviour
England and Wales
The Westminster parliament is fully responsible for the regulation of fireworks in both England and Wales. The fireworks regulations 2004 set the rules that oversee firework sale and usage in England and Wales.
You do not require a licence to sell fireworks during the traditional selling periods; Bonfire Night celebrations (15 October to 10 November); Chinese New Year and the preceding three days; Diwali and the proceeding three days; New Year celebrations (26 to 31 December). Outside these periods, fireworks can only be sold by licensed traders.
Those intending to supply fireworks to the public all year round must obtain a fireworks licence, either from the Local Authority, Fire Service or Health and Safety Executive. The penalty for operating without a licence is an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in prison while using fireworks illegally can result in prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to 6 months. An on-the-spot fine of £90 may also be levied.
The regulation of the sale of fireworks in Scotland is regarded as a consumer safety issue and as such is a reserved matter to Westminster. However, in respect of the use of fireworks (under the 2004 Regulations), there is some legislative variation in respect of Scotland and therefore laws on where and when fireworks can be used is devolved to the Scottish parliament
New fireworks regulations were adopted in February 2021 following the work of the Fireworks Review Group. These new measures amended the times of the day and the quantity of fireworks that can be sold to the general public, and the times of the day fireworks can be used by the general public. The Fireworks Review Group made further recommendations (Stage 2) which the Scottish government committed to before the Scottish elections in May 2021. These included the introduction of mandatory conditions before the purchase of consumer fireworks by the general public and the introduction of no fireworks areas or zones where it is not possible for the general public to set fireworks off.
Northern Ireland has the toughest fireworks regulations of the four nations, as devolved powers mean that a licence required to sell, buy, possess and use certain types of fireworks which is issued by the Department of Justice for Northern Ireland.
Fireworks offences can lead to a fine of up to £5,000 or a three month prison sentence with increasing reports of fireworks misuse in recent months.
The Kennel Club's view
The Kennel Club are committed to raising awareness of the distress fireworks cause dogs and how their safety and welfare is put at risk. While we do not wish to see all fireworks removed from public display, there is a need to ensure that sensible measures diminish the harmful effects that fireworks have on dogs.
We are in support of fireworks use being restricted to licensed events only, with the licences provided by the local authority. This would allow for local councils to hold a central list of when and where fireworks displays are taking place, which dog owners are able to consider and prepare for.
Once there is an ability to identify when and where firework displays may be happening, mailing lists, notification systems or community notices can be established. This would provide an opportunity for residents to challenge the approval of a display, if it was felt it would have a significant negative impact on members of the community.
We would also encourage owners to acclimatise their dogs for the fireworks season in the preceding months to ensure they are prepared. This includes audio training of unfamiliar sounds and creating a safe space or den for their dogs. You could also speak to your vet or a dog behaviourist for advice.
During periods of fireworks , we also encourage owners to take precautions to keep their dog safe and comfortable in order to prevent them from running away and to protect their welfare. A key part of this is making sure owners ensure their pet’s microchip details are up to date, as year on year numerous dogs go missing during the fireworks season. More information on our best practice tips can be found on our fireworks article.
A licence for use would provide an opportunity to give information not only on how to use fireworks safely, but how to be considerate and to minimise impact on the community/neighbouring residents.
The Kennel Club's recommendations to Government
- We are in support of fireworks use being restricted to licensed events only, with the licences provided by the local authority
- We would recommend the penalty for misusing fireworks to be a fixed penalty notice. This more immediate penalty is likely to be a more effective deterrent than the unlikely risk of prosecution
- We are in favour of lowering the maximum decibel limit of fireworks in order to reduce the harm caused to animals and vulnerable groups
- We would recommend the government to follow the recommendations of the Parliamentary Petitions Committee and conduct a review of the safety and animal welfare concerns regarding fireworks
How can you help?
With over 8 million dogs in the UK, the dog-owning population accounts for approximately 25% of the British public, meaning that dog-related issues can have widespread voting appeal.
The way to keep politicians interested in canine welfare is to speak to them about your concerns on a particular issue (e.g. dog walking access, dangerous dogs, puppy farming etc.) and ask for their help. You can do this via email, a letter or even a meeting.
The key is to keep their mailbags full with dog issues to ensure that as your elected representative, they keep up to date with the issues that are most important to you, their constituent.
If there is an issue you feel strongly about, write a letter to your parliamentary representative lending your support to one of our many campaigns and letting them know how they can help. Your emails and letters don't need to be long, in fact, the shorter the better as politicians are very busy. By doing this you will be playing your part in keeping the welfare of dogs on the political agenda.
Our guide to letter writing
While we know that it is much easier simply to copy a letter and send it off, your parliamentary representative is far more likely to take notice if you write your own letter. Use the guideline below to draft your own letter:
[YOUR HOUSE NUMBER AND STREET]
[NAME OF POLITICIAN]
[PARLIAMENT OR ASSEMBLY ADDRESS]
Paragraph 1: Why you are writing
The first paragraph of your letter should always introduce your concerns to your parliamentary representative. For example:
‘I am writing to you regarding the issue of [INSERT TOPIC], to ask that you support The Kennel Club’s campaign to...’
(This information can be found on the relevant campaign page of our website.)
Paragraph 2: What you want to change
Each of the campaign’s pages on The Kennel Club’s website outlines the organisation’s official position and what is being done to try and push for change. This information can act as a guideline for telling your parliamentary representative how existing legislation needs to be amended.
If you are writing to request that your parliamentary representative support The Kennel Club on a specific issue, you may wish to use something along the lines of the following wording as an introduction to the paragraph:
‘The Kennel Club acts as a voice for thousands of dog owners across the United Kingdom. Supported by its vast expertise and experience on dog-related matters, The Kennel Club is proposing the following…’
…then write a bullet-point list into your letter.
Paragraph 3: Why these changes are necessary
Providing politicians with evidence will demonstrate that your concerns are valid. Use facts and figures to support your argument, and describe any personal experiences that you may have had to make your case even more powerful.
Paragraph 4: Action points
Tell your parliamentary representative the line of action that you wish them to take on this matter. This could be taking the matter up with their party, raising the issue in parliament, signing an EDM or supporting a specific Bill. If you are unsure what to write in this paragraph, contact The Kennel Club's public affairs team for advice.
Paragraph 5: Signing off
Request a reply. You may also wish to arrange a face-to-face meeting to discuss the issue further. Then all that is left to do is sign off:
‘I look forward to hearing from you.
[INSERT YOUR NAME]’
Once you have received a reply
To help keep us up-to-date on which politicians are aware/supportive of our campaigns, please photocopy or summarise the response you receive and send it to us by email or by post to: The Kennel Club Public Affairs, 1-5 Clarges Street, Piccadilly, London, W1J 8AB.
If your parliamentary representative has agreed to meet with you, read our guide to a successful meeting with parliamentary representatives below.
Our guide to a successful meeting with parliamentary representatives
Most parliamentary representatives hold surgeries where constituents can meet them face to face. Sometimes notices of surgeries appear in local newspapers, but if not you can contact your MP, MSP, AM or MLA’s office directly to book your appointment in advance.
Five steps to success
- Preparation is key. Make a list of questions/topic areas that you want to discuss with your parliamentary representative. Go armed with facts and figures to support your argument. You should also take a notepad and pen to write down any important points for reference
- Be direct. Introduce yourself and what you are there to discuss. State your concerns clearly, countering any opposing points that they may make. Do not become emotional – you will make a stronger argument by being calm and reasonable throughout
- Listen and respond constructively. Once you have made your position, allow your MP/MSP/AM/MLA to present you with his/hers. Listen carefully for areas of agreement and disagreement, always be positive and try to ask questions that will probe their personal viewpoint rather than that of their party
- Be aware of time. Stick to the issue and try not to get sidetracked into general debate - you will have a limited amount of time with him/her and it is important to make sure you get across all the points you wish to make
- At the end of the meeting and beyond… Thank them for the meeting, summarise your discussion and outline the steps you can take going forward. Let them know that they can contact you in the future to discuss the issue further.
For further information or advice, please contact The Kennel Club public affairs department on 020 7518 1020 or by email.