Encourage your community or suburb to be a “Fireworks-free Zone” 

For most South African families, New Year’s Eve is an evening spent with family and friends, perhaps having a party or a braai. For some, it’s unfortunately a time for setting off fireworks. For many years now, the hazards of fireworks to humans, pets and wildlife have been known and many articles have been written about fireworks in the media and on social media. On New Year’s Eve, some people enjoy watching the colourful and dazzling displays of lights that sparkle and light up the night sky. The bangs, booms and whistles that accompany these displays only add to their excitement. For most pets, however, New Year’s Eve is filled with terror and fear.


Animals have a more sensitive sense of hearing than humans do, so noises that are a little loud to us are downright deafening to them. When panicked, our pets will do most anything to get away from a frightening situation. They will jump through glass windows and even scale tall walls if necessary. 

Pets get anxious and break out of gardens. They then end up running panicked through the suburbs and on main roads where they can get hit by cars. Last year, after New Year’s Eve, suburbs were full of pamphlets posted on poles and on shopping centre walls asking for help to find their lost dogs. Social media too was inundated with posts about lost dogs. Sadly, many of the dogs that ran away in fear never returned home.


Dogs have been known to try and attack fireworks or firecrackers, eat them, catch them or try to play with them, sometimes resulting in horrific injuries – and even death. On New Year’s Eve last year, a dog tried to fetch a lit firework, and the rocket exploded in his mouth. The resulting wounds on the little dog’s mouth and face were so severe that it had to be euthanised. Dogs who’ve had run-ins with bottle rockets and mortars have been burned, have damaged limbs and have even lost eyes as a result. In some cases, people toss a firework or firecracker in the air, and the dog jumps up, swallows it, and the firecrackers cause severe damage to the internal organs.


Until humanity realises that fun can be had without harming animals or our planet, here are tips to make your pets feel safe and secure on New Year’s Eve.

  • Do not take your pet to firework displays! Pets have been known to bolt from owners once the show begins, only to be hit by cars in their mad dash to find somewhere to hide. 
  • Never ever let off fireworks near or next to your pet. If ignited too close to your pet, fireworks can cause very painful burns to the body, face, nose and mouth, in addition to the psychological trauma they are sure to produce. 
  • Never ever leave your pet outside loose in the garden or tied up. They will have no place to go and the combination of restraint and noise will traumatise them even more.
  • Make sure all of your pets wear an appropriate-fitting collar with proper identification attached. Microchipping your pet is also highly recommended.  
  • On New Year’s Eve, walk your dog at least one hour before the sun sets to prevent exposure to the fireworks. Take an extra-long walk to use up his excess energy, if possible. 
  • Keep your pets inside the house on New Year’s Eve. Make sure there is nothing of value in the room your pet might accidentally break in their moments of panic. It is also a good idea to unplug floor and table lamps. Feed and water your pet a few hours before confining them to the house.
  • If you simply cannot keep your pets inside, provide kennels or other “safe places” for your pets to hide. Cover the kennels with blankets to dampen the noise.
  • Turn on the TV or radio to help drown out the noise of the fireworks to minimise your pets’ exposure to the noise. Keep the volume at a normal level; turning it up too loud may only increase your pets’ anxiety. 
  • Make sure all doors and windows are securely shut and locked. Shut all blinds and drapes to minimise visual stimuli.
  • Do not turn off all the lights in the house. By leaving some of the lights on your pet will be calmer and it will also reduce the flashes of light affecting your pet. Leaving them in a pitch-black room will only frighten them further.
  • If your pet gets excessively distraught by loud noises, experts recommend that you stay home with your pet. Tranquilisers or sedatives may be necessary. Contact your family veterinarian to discuss this option.
  • If your pet is anxious and behaves nervously by crying, whining or pacing back and forth, try and distract your pet with chew toys or by playing with it or doing something else it enjoys.
  • Never punish your pet for its reaction to fireworks or other loud noises.    
  • Petting or reassuring your pet by saying “it’s okay” or “don’t be afraid” can actually reinforce her nervousness and fear. Instead, ignore the behaviour and try to redirect her attention.
  • Act normally, even though your pet is acting abnormally. Talk in a normal voice and do the things you would normally do at that time of the night, such as making dinner or doing the laundry. Your pets take their cues from you, so if you act secure and confident so will they. If you act nervous and agitated, your pet will act the same.
  • Never leave a noise phobia pet with friends unless they are acutely aware of your pet’s behaviour and know what they will need to do to calm your pet down. Only leave your pet with someone your pet knows and is comfortable with. Leaving your pet with strangers may only increase their anxiety.  
  • Once you are sure the fireworks are over, check on your pet. Let them out into the house first to make sure they are okay before letting them outside. Check your pet for signs of stress. If your pets show any signs of stress, it is probably better to keep them in for the night and let them out in the morning when their stress has subsided. Signs of stress in dogs include pacing, panting, inappropriate barking, vomiting, diarrhoea, trembling/shaking and refusal to eat. 
  • Before letting your pet outside, do a sweep of your yard to make sure there are no spent fireworks or other hazards lying around that your pet may come in contact with. Fireworks contain dangerous chemicals that can cause vomiting, a painful abdomen and bloody diarrhoea. More severe reactions such as seizures, tremors and kidney or liver failure may occur depending on the ingredients in the firework ingested. If your pet ingests any fireworks get them to a vet immediately.


Educate people and spread the word about the dangers of fireworks. Encourage your community or suburb to be a “Fireworks-free Zone”. You can do this by posting on community Facebook pages and putting out pamphlets in your neighbourhood. Report vendors selling fireworks to the authorities. The police force has cracked down on this and last year many vendors were arrested. Set up an Animal Rescue Team in your area and confirm safe houses. During and after fireworks are set off on New Year’s Eve, drive around to look for traumatised and lost dogs to take to the safe houses. Do the same on New Year’s Day.

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