5 reasons to skip fireworks this Halloween & 3 steps to protect animals

Many people have enjoyed the brief thrill that fireworks bring; but that brief moment of joy for some has serious consequences for others.

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Tips for keeping pets calm

Here are five ways that fireworks harm animals, humans, and the environment we share.

1. Companion animals like dogs, cats, and horses suffer.

We love our companion animals and we would do anything to keep them safe. Many pet guardians know the toll that fireworks take on anxious animals, whose hearing is far more sensitive than our own. In a recent study, approximately 23% of the dogs were reported to be fearful of noises, with the highest frequency of fear from fireworks.

This fear response can bring with it tragic consequences. You might remember a number of sad cases that made it into the news in recent years. In 2016, a 10-year-old dog named Maggie was off-leash at the unfenced Trout Lake dog park during the afternoon when someone set off fireworks. Scared and disoriented, Maggie took off running and was hit by a Skytrain. In 2019, a cat named Spot had to be euthanized after becoming frightened by garden fireworks and seriously injured in the UK. Just this year, a horse named Navar suffered a compound fracture after being spooked by fireworks in Nova Scotia and was euthanized. In June, a dog named Jupiter escaped her backyard and lost her life during a Canada Day fireworks display.

2. Birds panic and flee, causing them harm and death.

When fireworks are set off, birds are frightened from their nest and take flight en masse. This shocking animation shows the “explosive movements” before and after fireworks were lit to ring in the new year in the Netherlands.

Birds aren’t equipped to fly at night, when fireworks displays are typically held, which puts them at a major risk of flying into objects such as trees, vehicles, and buildings. The most infamous case of mass bird deaths occurred in Arkansas, when New Year’s fireworks caused the deaths of about 5,000 birds.

3. Wild animals become frightened and abandon their young.

Wild animals experience fear and disorientation in response to fireworks, which can cause them to flee into dangerous locations like roadways. Wildlife rescue organizations report that loud and startling fireworks displays cause animals to abandon their young in their nests and dens.

4. Humans experience weapons-related PTSD.

Non-human animals are not the only ones who experience panic due to loud and bright fireworks. Humans who experience weapons-related PTSD, such as veterans and refugees from war zones, can be triggered by the explosive sounds. People with sensory processing disorders and some neurodivergent folks can also have difficulties with fireworks.

5. Harmful substances are released into the environment.

When fireworks are set off, the chemical reactions that create fireworks’ trademark light and sound effects release harmful substances into the environment that harm humans, animals, and the environment.

Greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen are released into the air, contributing to climate change. Particulate matter from the smoke can cause breathing difficulties to those with respiratory problems.

The debris from fireworks can pollute our waterways, harming or killing fish, waterfowl, and other aquatic animals who rely on this habitat for food, shelter, and survival.

Three ways you can help

1. Learn your municipality’s regulations.

Does your municipality have a bylaw prohibiting fireworks? You can learn about various municipal bylaws around fireworks in this article or on your municipality’s website.

Learn about firework bylaws

2. Contact your Mayor and Council

The City of Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver have banned the purchase and use of fireworks by consumers. If your municipality still allows consumer fireworks to be purchased and/or used, you can encourage them to follow this lead! Find contact information for your local decision-makers on your municipality’s website. Consider this template as a guide for your ask:


I am writing to express my concern about the use of fireworks in our municipality. 

Fireworks are harmful to the environment, animals, and humans. The loud sounds from fireworks cause pets to become frightened and flee their homes; cause wildlife to panic and run into roadways or fly into buildings; and trigger panic responses in individuals with weapons-related PTSD. The debris from fireworks harms our environment and pollutes our waterways.

Other municipalities have taken steps to address these concerns. For instance, Banff and Canmore have introduced sound-free fireworks displays, while Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver have banned the sale and use of consumer fireworks. I implore you to follow their lead by introducing a bylaw to address the serious impacts of fireworks.

I look forward to your response.

3. Share how fireworks impact you and your animal family members.

The more people learn about the serious consequences of fireworks, the more we can spread thoughtfulness and compassion in our celebrations. Please share your story below so that the VHS may share it in the future.

Thank you for protecting animals and opting for a fireworks-free celebration.

Is your companion animal afraid of fireworks?

Check out these tips for helping your dog or cat to keep calm during stressful fireworks displays.


Fireworks create more stress than joy

A brief moment of joy for some

Unintended consquences for others

Most kids have a story about the first time they got their hands on fireworks, including VHS’ recently retired Peter Fricker, who accessed some pretty dangerous fireworks when he was growing up!

While fireworks may be tempting for a moment of joy, they have some intense and devastating consequences. You may remember the 2016 case of Maggie, a 10-year-old pup who was off-leash at the unfenced Trout Lake dog park during the afternoon when someone set off fireworks. Suddenly, Maggie was running, not sure where to go for safety. Tragically, she was killed by a skytrain.

Her story is not unique. Walking down the street one Vancouver Halloween, I witnessed a coyote running full speed, terrified of the sounds. Wildlife centres receive many calls on days with fireworks about animals that are anxious and disoriented and they report that wildlife often show signs of distress for days afterward.

There is an answer: Banff was the first Canadian city to recognize these impacts and produce a sound-free fireworks display, and Canmore has followed suit.

In Maple Ridge, B.C., it is illegal to set off fireworks without a permit.

The City of Vancouver, B.C., also has a consumer fireworks ban in place and so does the City of North Vancouver.

There are three ways to prevent the suffering of animals from fireworks:

1. Write to your municipal council.

Write to your local municipal council and ask them to put a ban in place for the sale and use of fireworks by private citizens. The District of North Vancouver is currently considering such a ban. Residents can contact City Council in support of a consumer fireworks ban.

2. Sign the federal petition.

Sign the federal e-petition, which calls on the Canadian goverment to explore legislative changes around the use of fireworks. The petition is open until February 25, 2022, at 10:45 a.m. PST.

3. Share this infographic!

Without public education, people will continue to seek illegal means to access fireworks even in areas with bans in place. The infographic demonstrates how one small change can help create a community that cares for everyone who belongs in it, be they feathered, furry or human.