Clampdown on firecrackers needed to shield animals – ARAPS

…lobbies for use of silent fireworks

By Rupa Seenaraine

Anxiety, confusion and a temporary state of panic are some of the after-effects of firecrackers on domestic and wildlife animals, as these loud sounds cause distress to their acute sense of hearing.

ARAPS President Shari Rodrigues DaSilva

The suffering of these animals is clear when they try to claw their way out from these environments to escape the unpredictable loud noises, despite being comforted by their owners. On the other hand, strays would immediately sprint away but this does little to alleviate the inevitable damage that manifests later in the form of hearing loss among other effects.
The use of firecrackers and fireworks is undoubtedly illegal in Guyana. Yet, they are loosely used without any serious crackdown from authorities. In fact, the recent New Year celebrations would have corroborated this occurrence.
President of the Animal Rescue and Protection Society (ARAPS) – Tails of Hope, Shari Rodrigues DaSilva spoke with Guyana Times on the detriments of these actions and the need to steer away from such practices, especially with the considerable presence of strays.
She shared that many owners would try to contain their animals throughout this time, in order to prevent them from escaping. However, some animals would try all means of evading the explosives. In some cases, even strangling themselves with their leash.

Squibs and other pyrotechnics which are illegal in Guyana being sold openly in Georgetown

Dogs, particularly, are able to hear up to 60,000 hertz, while humans cannot hear sounds that vibrate greater than 20,000 vibrations per second (20,000 hertz). This represents one-third of the capacity of dogs – making them more sensitive due to the longer ear canal. Fireworks, on the other hand, can emit sounds of up to 190 decibels.

Hundreds of birds found dead in Rome this year post fireworks display

“It causes them to stress. Sometimes no matter how much you try to contain them, it doesn’t work. If you put them on a leash, they can try to strangle themselves out of fear. If you put them in a kennel that they were housed in consistently, all of a sudden, they can even eat through the kennel to escape. You might put measures in place but fear might compel them to do the impossible or the unexpected,” the activist pointed out.
Upon escaping, many pets are not in a balanced mental state, and can prove hazardous to themselves and humans by abruptly running out of nowhere and into the path of vehicles.
Leading up to the holidays, from Diwali to the New Year, ARAPS would have strengthened their awareness on the topic, and provided tips to pet owners on how to minimise the effects of deafening firecrackers.
“Leading up to holidays, we would have been bringing awareness to persons to lock up their animals, keep them contained and play a little music not only to drown out the sounds but calm them. This also applies for Diwali and the actual Christmas season and New Year again. We were saying to play soothing music and to keep the animal calm. We were placing a lot of focus on fireworks and it did seem a bit more effective this year.”
DaSilva expounded that due to owners’ adherence to the advice, there weren’t as many reports of animals escaping from home. On the other hand, the use of firecrackers and squibs remained unchanged.
The Tails of Hope President indicated, “We did not experience that number of animals going missing because people were more aware. I did see it minimise a bit this year because, on the owner’s part, they were more aware. What we noticed was a bit better this year is not as many animals escaped but we would have rather none at all. On the front of the owners, they put extra care this year.”
Birds are also affected by fireworks through tachycardia (heart rate over 100 beats per minute) and even death by fright. This year, hundreds of birds died reportedly after fireworks were set off in the Italian capital of Rome on New Year’s Eve.
Dubbed as a “massacre” by animal rights groups, the lifeless bodies of mostly starlings littered the ground.

The organisation is calling for a crackdown on the occurrence, especially since it is sold loosely on the streets. These items are illegal in Guyana. Moreover, parents were urged to ensure that their children do not deliberately throw these explosives at animals.
“They’re selling these crackers out of cars, walking and selling; and even going into neighbourhoods. So, they’re freely selling firecrackers and it just goes back to enforcement of these laws that are in place. I have seen children display this behaviour of throwing it towards the animals, causing it to burn them. Sometimes, it causes them grave injuries. Sometimes these animals are strays on the road so humans wouldn’t be able to notice that they’re injured,” she voiced.
The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) is the only agency authorised to import firecrackers and other explosives. The sale and purchase of such explosives are illegal under the Customs Act amended by Act No 1 of 2005.
DaSilva stressed that the enforcement should “start at the top” and lobbied for the use of silent fireworks during celebrations. She responded to opposition from some sections of society regarding its use elsewhere, asserting that the situations in developed countries do not pose harm to animals as it does in Guyana.
“I think that it has to start from the top. I would like to see authorities set an example by using the silent firecrackers. Certain countries have started already. Persons would also say ‘Well what do you say about North America using firecrackers?’. Remember they might go to a safe space or a stadium or somewhere isolated from the animals. We need to take into account that they don’t have the situation of stray animals like us or the animal would be indoors. Whereas in Guyana, most animals are outdoors,” the animal activist pointed out.
ARAPS is primarily focused on animal health awareness, rescuing efforts, preventing animal cruelty and creating a safe space for those that need support.