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Owner perceptions and management of the adverse behavioural effects of fireworks on companion animals: an update

Authors: Walker JK, Dale AR, Zito S, Gates MC
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 323-328, Nov 2019
Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Animal type: Dog, Companion animal, Cat
Article class: Short Communication

Aims: To provide updated results on the adverse behavioural effects of fireworks on companion animals in New Zealand, measures that owners use to mitigate these effects, and opinions on a ban on the sale of fireworks.

Method: A cross-sectional survey of companion animal owners in New Zealand was conducted between 2 November and 5 December 2016 using an online survey. The survey was modelled after a similar study conducted in 2006. Owners were asked to provide information on the types and severity of behaviours observed in their animals that were frightened by fireworks, what they did for their frightened animals and whether they would support a ban on the sale of fireworks.

Results: There were 4,293 respondents who completed the online survey and they owned 15,871 companion animals, of which 11,750 (74.4%) were frightened of fireworks. For the 7,464 fearful animals with individual data available, the most commonly reported adverse behaviours were hiding (5,287; 70.8%), shivering (4,058; 54.3%) and cowering (3,324; 44.5%). Owners reported that 345 animals had been physically injured as the result of fireworks. Of 3,682 owners with frightened animals, 2,649 (71.9%) had not sought help or treatment for their animal. Frightened animals were mostly kept inside (3,479/7,464; 46.%) or comforted (2,112/7,464; 28.2%). Of all 4,325 respondents, 3,631 (84.0%) were supportive of a ban on the private sale of fireworks, with 370 (8.6%) against and 315 (7.3%) undecided. Owners with ≥1 animal that was fearful towards fireworks were more likely to support a ban (3,137/3,412; 91.9%) than owners whose animals were not afraid (466/561; 83.1%) (OR = 2.32; 95% CI = 1.80–2.98).

Conclusion and Clinical Relevance: Among respondents to this survey, many owners of companion animals reported that their animals were adversely affected by fireworks, but few of them sought advice about strategies to mitigate the impacts. The majority of respondents supported a ban on the private sale of fireworks. Campaigns to raise public awareness of treatment strategies for managing fear behaviours during anticipated fireworks displays may be beneficial.

Keywords: Companion animals, fireworks, behaviour, welfare, legislation

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