More dogs go missing during fireworks season

Statistics released today (1 November) by dog welfare organisation The Kennel Club show an increase in dogs going missing during fireworks season.

Missing pet data from Petlog, one of the UK’s largest lost and found pet databases run by The Kennel Club, shows 34% more dogs were marked as missing by their owners during the two weeks of November 2021 which saw Bonfire Night and Diwali (28 October – 11 November), compared to the following two weeks.

This year saw five days of ongoing Diwali celebrations, and now Bonfire Night, taking place within two weeks of each other, both of which are often accompanied by bright and loud fireworks displays which can frighten and negatively impact the behaviour of the UK’s pets, causing some to escape or run away.

Nearly half of owners say their dog is scared by fireworks, with one in five noticing signs of stress, such as pacing (20%), howling and crying (20%) and excessive panting (18%), according to research from The Kennel Club. A third (31%) notice that their dog shivers and trembles during firework displays, and more than a quarter (26%) mention unusual excessive barking.

Because of the ongoing negative impacts of unregulated fireworks on the nation’s pets, The Kennel Club, alongside other welfare organisations, is urging Government to conduct a review of legislation with an event today in Parliament. The organisation will recommend to MPs and decision-makers that fireworks be restricted to licensed events only, that the maximum decibel limit of fireworks is lowered in order to reduce harm cause to animals and vulnerable groups, and suggest the introduction of a fixed penalty notice system for the misuse of fireworks.

Mark Beazley, Chief Executive at The Kennel Club said: “The element of surprise is one of the key factors in what makes fireworks uniquely distressing for dogs. If owners can anticipate fireworks, they can manage this distress in a way that works for their dog, and we’re asking Government to recognise this and review legislation, for the sake of the nation’s pets.

“Our statistics sadly show that there really are devastating and long-term consequences when fireworks strike dogs with a sense of terror unexpectantly, with thousands of dogs running away, behaving out of character and showing clear signs of fear and distress every year.

“Whilst we urge Government to consider our recommendations to protect dog welfare, we are also urging caution from owners this fireworks season. Each dog reacts differently and it is important that owners know what do to and how they can help their four-legged friend and keep them safe.”

To help dogs get through fireworks season as safely and comfortably as possible, The Kennel Club has created a Spotify playlist which can help owners to get their dogs used to the noises. Start on a very low volume for a short amount of time and slowly build up to avoid causing your dog any distress - if your dog does start showing signs of distress, stop immediately, and seek help from a qualified trainer or behaviourist.

Of course, owners should also remember that there are multiple elements of fireworks which can trigger fear, from cracks and whistles, followed by bangs, to vibrations, flashing lights and the strong smells in the air. Whilst playing these sounds may help most dogs, it is not the complete remedy, and further advice from experts at The Kennel Club includes:

  • Making a safe space for your dog filled with their favourite toys and blankets. You could drape a thick duvet over the top of it to make it more soundproof, but make sure that it's secure and can't fall on to your dog
  • Shutting all the doors and windows, and keeping curtains closed to block the flashing lights
  • Distracting your dog or trying to drown out the sounds by keeping the TV or radio switched on, or a washing machine or tumble drier which gives off vibrations
  • Checking where and when displays are being held in your local area.  Also ask your neighbours to let you know if they are planning a private display
  • Quietly and affectionately acknowledging your dog’s calm and settled behaviour during fireworks
  • Keeping your dog’s microchip details up to date makes it easier to reunite you with your dog, in case they run away or escape
  • Trying to act and behave as normal - your dog will pick up on any unusual behaviour. Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog

More information and advice on how to make sure dogs are safe and comfortable during the fireworks season, as well as the organisation’s policy recommendations, is available via The Kennel Club’s website.