November 5th celebrations are a great British tradition entrenched in 400 years of history. It is part of our culture and an event to be enjoyed. But does it have to be so noisy?

Noise control officers and Members of Parliament across the UK have been fielding an increasing number of complaints related to the noise and nuisance caused by fireworks. One area of increasing concern is that of pet health and safety. So what is being done to take the bangs out of Bonfire Night?

Loud noises will never be a favourite with dogs. With a keen sense of hearing that is believed to be twice as sensitive as any human being, a dog will hear every firework as a series of exploding bombs. After all that’s what fireworks are – explosives.

According to RSPCA figures every year hundreds of pets are killed, injured or lost in their attempts to escape the noise of fireworks. Panicked pets may even become vicious and destructive. Severe cases of anxiety can cause the pet to collapse or have fits.

Each year the owners of noise phobic dogs head for the vets in the hope that they can receive advice and treatment to ease their pet’s anxiety over the firework season.  Traditional medication including benzodiazepines, beta blockers and phenothiazines are often prescribed to administer on and when the fear stimulus is expected. Unfortunately, not all firework events can be predicted and often owners are unhappy about the possibility of side effects and the idea that the drugs are merely ‘doping’ the dog rather than alleviating the feeling of fear.

But wouldn’t it be more satisfactory to erase the trigger for fireworks and noise phobia at source?

A government spokesperson, said:

“The government is reluctant to ban the availability and use of fireworks, not because of a failure to recognise the need for action to be taken in this direction, but because they know the firework trade will continue on the black market and therefore prove impossible to control. Keeping it in the open will assist the administration.” 

In a recent MORI poll, 81 per cent of those questioned agreed that loud fireworks should only be allowed at public displays: 74 per cent of respondents agreed to the availability of only low noise fireworks for widespread purchase and private use.  In January 2003 the fireworks industry entered into a voluntary agreement with the Department of Trade and Industry to:

  • Stop the supply of air bombs.
  • Ensure that no firework exceeds 120 decibels.
  • Limit the supply of noisy fireworks (113-120 decibels).
  • Limit the supply of smaller rockets.


The Fireworks Bill looked to take this ‘voluntary’ agreement one vital stage further to improve the protection of animals as well as people. Legislation introduced in 2003 covered other cultural festivals that include fireworks as part of their celebrations.

Under this legislation pets and people are protected as follows:

  • A total ban on air bombs and rockets.
  • Fireworks cannot be sold or possessed by anyone under the age of 18.
  • It is illegal to let off fireworks on the street.
  • An 11pm curfew will be imposed with the exception of New Year’s Eve – when fireworks can be used until midnight and Chinese New Year, Divali and November 5th until midnight.
  • Maximum noise level permissible is 120 decibels with the exception of professionals who can exceed this and access category 4 fireworks.
  • It is also illegal to sell or move fireworks via any non-registered retailers such as through car boot sales or market traders.

No one wants to spoil the fun of November 5th celebrations but consideration for other’s needs and safety is common courtesy. We share our homes and environment with pets and their health and safety must also be our concern.