8,000 animals hit by firework terror

MORE than 8,000 pets and farm animals were killed or injured by fireworks during last year’s Guy Fawkes celebrations, Scotland’s largest animal charity said last night.

Vets across Scotland have told the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that 2001’s festivities were the worst they have ever experienced for firework injuries to animals.

A survey of almost 193 Scots vet practices revealed that 8,243 animals were killed or injured in the four months from September to December. In several cases, household pets were burned alive.

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The SSPCA fears hundreds more animals could have fallen victim to this year’s Hogmanay celebrations and has called for immediate changes in the law regulating firework sales.

"We contacted 88% of the vets in Scotland and all of them said they had treated animals for problems related to fireworks, ranging from stress and anxiety to deliberate attacks," SSPCA spokeswoman Doreen Graham said.

"In one case kittens were killed in a house fire after a firework was put through a letterbox. Two dogs had to be put to sleep after fireworks were put into a car in which they were trapped.

"The problem is growing because fireworks are no longer restricted to November 5, but are used all year round. We are not calling for an outright ban but we need tighter regulation on their sale and use."

According to the charity’s report - Fireworks and Animals: A Survey of Scottish Vets in 2001 - dogs and cats accounted for around 90% of the cases reported, although vets also treated dozens of small animals, birds, horses and farm stock.

The SSPCA wants retailers to be bound by a statutory code of practice which would restrict the period when fireworks can be sold, as well as controls on their explosive capacity and enforcement of a minimum age of purchase.

Veterinary surgeon Alistair Marks, 41, from the Oak Tree Veterinary Centre in Edinburgh, said: "It used to be a small problem around November 5, but it has become far greater as the firework season has extended to several months.

"Fireworks are serious weapons in the wrong hands but there is a minority of people who would use fireworks to intentionally injure.

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"They should be available for short periods of time and only to designated people who can handle them responsibly."

Peter Smith, a vet from Airdrie, Lanarkshire, said 2001 had been the worst year yet for injuries to pets.

"This year started earlier and lasted longer than I can ever remember. We must put pressure on legislators to introduce tighter controls on the sale of these products," he said.

Kerry Littlejohn of Ashgrove Veterinary Centre in Aberdeen said: "We are treating an increasing number of pets that are suffering panic attacks. The number of severe cases where sedatives have to given out is also increasing."

She added: "There needs to be a change in the law to prevent children getting their hands on them."

The SSPCA is launching a month-long campaign this week in a bid to change the law on fireworks.