Rethink celebrating Guy Fawkes Day, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA urges

Fireworks being set off on the eve of Guy Fawkes at Maiden’s Cove Parking in Cape Town.

All fireworks traumatise animals and cause stress to wild animals and our beloved pets. File Picture: David Ritchie/ Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 1, 2023

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The Cape of Good Hope Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is calling on Capetonians to rethink celebrating Guy Fawkes this weekend.

Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated annually on November 5, involving bonfires and fireworks displays.

The day has its origins in the United Kingdom where it commemorates the failed Gunpowder plot of 1605.

According to the organisation, this day no longer has relevance to South Africa and doesn’t celebrate our diverse and inclusive culture.

“It’s confusing as to why it is still celebrated. Fireworks are discriminatory in their victim choices, traumatising and injuring children, pets and wild animals and impacting negatively on environmental health,” Cape of Good Hope SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abraham said.

The sound from fireworks can be heard seven times louder by animals, causing extreme stress for pets, wild animals and birds.

“Take the loudest, most ear-piercing sound you've ever heard – something like a fire at its peak volume and multiply that intensity several times over,” Abraham said.

“Now imagine it as a sudden, unexpected noise that can be as startling and distressing to a dog as a sonic boom or the shockwave from a large explosion would be to a human.”

She said an animal’s natural response will be to flee from the noise and this often ends in tragic consequences.

Wild birds and other animals will flee, become disorientated, run onto highways, fly into buildings, or hide in other obstacles like pipes or drains and even abandon their nests, leaving offspring to suffer and die.

Pets will run in blind panic through glass door panes and even into oncoming traffic and those that find a hiding place will likely not find their way back home again.

The effects of the noise on animals can be long-lasting, sometimes resulting in nervous, aggressive, and damage-causing behaviour.

“The absolute terror animals experience from loud bangs is a very real threat for them, it is extremely cruel and incredibly selfish,” Abraham said.

What can be done to protect animals?

– Do not support the illegal use of fireworks and report fireworks being set off in your area to The City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement on 021-480-7700. This number is available 24/7.

– Make sure your pets are safe - that they have up-to-date identification on them (a collar with a tag and a registered microchip with all necessary and up-to-date information).

– Create a safe, secure place for them inside your home that is away from windows or doors.

– Close curtains or blinds and put the TV or a radio on to mask the sounds outside.

– Feed them earlier and keep them inside.

– Some dogs may need a good walk before the evening to help them feel calmer, ensure this is done in the day and not in the evening when fireworks could be let off.

– Provide them with some enrichment as a positive distraction (a stuffed Kong, a yummy chewable treat, or a big sinewy chew from your local vet or pet shop). Vet shops also stock a range of calming tablets, sprays or products that can be sprinkled on food or bedding. Speak to a professional about the best options for your pet.

– Be there for them to comfort and keep them reassured and feeling safe.

– Older pets may develop fears later in life or become anxious about things or sounds that previously did not bother them. Take this into account if you have an ageing pet - their behaviour over time changes too.

“The Cape of Good Hope SPCA will be stationed at the Joint Operations Centre and will be ready to respond to reports of injured animals or animals in distress,” Abraham said.

“Please call our emergency number 083-326-1604 if you come across an injured or terrified animal. Just as we value and celebrate the diversity of our people's cultures, we should also cherish the diversity of our natural world. By doing so, we ensure that the environment, a fundamental part of our national identity, remains intact for future generations,” she said.

“Please, consider the dangers and effects of fireworks and always choose to celebrate any occasion in a way that respects and protects our environment, our fellow citizens, and our animals.”

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