MSPCA warns against excessive use of fireworks in village feasts and public events.
Animals seriously affected by excessively loud disturbances.
22/06/17 Floriana, Malta.
MSPCA received several complaints from tourists last year about the disturbances caused to animals by excessively loud fireworks in village feasts and public events where animals are displayed. The Society also handles several requests for help from owners of noise phobic dogs.
MSPCA encourages fireworks factories and organisation committees to start favouring silent fireworks whenever possible, which are garnering interest in other countries due to benefits to animals and children (1). MSPCA also encourages breeders to expose young pets to random loud noises during their critical period; a practice recommended in The Puppy Plan to help habituate young dogs to human environment (2). Although animals that are born and raised during fireworks season tend to be habituated to the noise because they are exposed to it by default, the animals that have already developed noise phobias have very little chance of getting habituated to fireworks.
Behaviour & Outreach Manager, Christian Pace comments saying, “It can be difficult to replicate fireworks in systemic desensitisation programs for pets. Recordings of fireworks can only replicate the noise and its randomness but falls short of helping the animals that are effected by the vibrations experienced due to the loudness of real fireworks. Unfortunately, this often means they have to be medicated throughout the season to improve their welfare status, and that is only when the owner bothers to seek help.”
The Society would like to see authorities giving greater value to animal welfare when issuing permits for the use of fireworks in village feasts and public events.
In comments to NET TV News 23/06/17:
“Animals are affected by fireworks in similar ways as humans, except they have no concept of feasts and cannot rationalise why they are happening and therefore are more prone to reacting to them negatively and taking longer to recover from the fright. More over, even those not immediately affected by the loud noises will be affected over the long festa season due to an accumulation of stress caused by sleep pattern disturbances which then leads to further problems in health and behaviour.
Just last week in Munxar,Gozo, excessively loud fireworks were responsible for a chorus of barking and howling in response. After hours of this, one could also hear the sound of dogs turning on each other (fighting) because they cannot cope with the undue stress imposed on them. I cannot imagine what it must be like for people who have first hand experience of war and are living in Malta in the Summer months.”
MSPCA proposals for the next legislature
As the longest operating animal welfare NGO in the country MSPCA has a lot to offer in terms of consultancy and guidance from past experience and its internal and international contacts. Having served many roles (animal control and rescue to name a few) depending on the local need at the time, the MSPCA has had to evolve many times to suit the needs of animals and their keepers at different times. We have always sought and welcomed input from professionals worldwide to channel our limited resources efficiently. To that end we have also discussed the needs of animals in Malta and Gozo and have decide on the following four proposals for the upcoming legislature that will ensure continued improvement for animal welfare standards in the country.
- Compulsory microchipping of owned cats. Following the first six years of microchipping being compulsory for dogs, it has become easier to identify the owner of an animal that escaped and owners who no longer can keep their animals have to find an alternative to abandoning their pet on the street.
- Breeding licences for all owners who choose to keep their cats and dogs intact. Currently the law only recognises individuals who intentionally breed more than four litters a year as breeders. Unfortunately, this means that those whose pets breed accidentally are not regulated and or held responsible.
- A sustained national strategy for population management of cats. Despite the efforts of NGOs to provide free or subsidised neutering to cat colony carers, any potential improvement is being countered by cat colony carers who do not neuter all their cats and thus encourage the animals to reproduce with greater success. An effective strategy for cat population management should involve intensive efforts to neuter all roaming cats region-by-region and restricting feeding activity to only those who can prove their commitment to neutering the whole colony.
- An efficient strategy to enforce animal laws that involve a well trained workforce and infrastructure. Staff working with animals should be trained in ethology to understand the needs of individual animals and species. An animal cruelty tribunal would ensure that cases of animal cruelty are handled quickly by staff that are sensitive to animal welfare. Such would ensure that cases of animal hoarding, ill-treatment and illegal surgical alterations to animals are accurately represented and prosecuted.
- [Added May 20th 2017} Standardisation of methods and approach in managing cat populations and a proactive and open and evidence-based approach to working practices governing ear-tipping (doing this in line with international methods so that neutered cats are recognised easily including by tourists), age of neutering (neutering before puberty and from 9 or 10 weeks, as is standard throughout the USA and Oceania and common in much of Western Europe). Using expertise from outside Malta (including utilising fully the input of one of the world’s leading cat population management specialists who is currently based in Malta).