MPs to consider fireworks sales ban as anger mounts over effect on animals

MPs are to consider a ban on sales of fireworks after tens of thousands of people called for a crackdown as bonfire night approaches.

The government said it had begun to gather evidence with a view to considering a change in the law.

A petition to the government calling for a ban has attracted more than 200,000 signatures in only about two weeks. As it has more than 100,000, parliament will be forced to debate it.

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Pressure is mounting on ministers to crack down on private use of fireworks as awareness has spread of their effect on pets , farm animals and wildlife.

And people suffering post-traumatic stress disorder can be affected by the unpredictable noises, it has been argued.

Sainsbury’s this year stopped selling fireworks in all of its 2,300 stores after rising anger on social media over their effects.

Complaints have risen in recent years about pets being traumatised and the firework “season” lasting longer than ever.

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This week a pet owner claimed her puppy died of a heart attack after being frightened by fireworks. Molly, a young terrier, “died of fright” caused by loud bangs, according to her owner, Susan Paterson, of South Yorkshire. A Hull family said they had to rehome their dog after it killed one of their cats when it was spooked by fireworks last month. A spokesman from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills told The Independent: “We want to make sure everyone can enjoy fireworks in safety. “That’s exactly why the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) is already gathering information on the noise, disturbance and anti-social behaviour that can be associated with fireworks, and the impact on people, animals and our environment.

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“This will be used to inform future laws around firework safety.”

The online petition says: “The noise from fireworks causes a great amount of fear, stress and anxiety in wild animals.

“Errant fireworks can also cause environmental damage though fires, and from the release of poisonous chemicals and particle-laden smoke, which is not just inhaled by wildlife, but contaminates the natural environment.”

Thousands of people have to go to A&E each year in England because of fireworks, its author claimed.

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In a poll of professionals by Vets Now, 96 per cent of more than 7,000 said they would support tighter controls on fireworks while 73 per cent said their pets were scared of the noise they create. Amanda Boag, clinical director of Vets Now, said fireworks were too easily available and called for an urgent review of regulations to prevent supermarkets and other retailers from selling them for private use.

“We’d also like to see their use restricted to licensed public events, which are well publicised in advance, around traditional dates only,” she said.

The RSPCA, which wants firework displays to be licensed, says fireworks are highly disturbing to some birds and have caused abandonment of nests. The British Horse Society has reported 20 deaths and 10 severe injuries from fireworks since 2010, it says. But a group representing British companies that stage displays warned a ban could lead to people making fireworks at home or illegal sales. Tom Smith, of the British Pyrotechnists Association, said: “Evidence from Europe suggests either people try to make their own at home or there’s a black market and accidents occur.”

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Not all pets are upset by fireworks, and that trauma can be minimised or avoided if fireworks are used sensibly, he said.

“It’s been shown in stables playing music increasingly loud helps horses. Playing music stops that gap between silence and noise.

“No one wants to cause animals distress. But if people use them responsibly everything can co-exist.

“My family have three dogs and three cats, and none is scared of fireworks – in fact, some love them.

“Where it’s not possible to minimise distress is if people are irresponsible, and then they’re probably committing an antisocial offence anyway.”

With notice of events, owners can give pets mild sedatives, he said, and a lot had been done already to limit unlicensed sales and reduce noise, under European regulations.

“The rate of accidents has come down a lot in the UK,” he added.

The sums spent each year on fireworks for displays and for private use are roughly equal, at about £12m.

Fewer than 200 full-time jobs are supported by the industry as all fireworks are now imported, Mr Smith said, although about 3,000 people are trained in doing seasonal display work.

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The Independent has also asked Labour and the Liberal Democrats for comment.