Fireworks damage and fireworks bans

How interdisciplinary are fireworks?

Lighting fireworks in the days before New Year’s Eve has been a common use in The Netherlands for decades. Not everyone is happy about this: especially pets and their owners would rather see fireworks disappear from the shelves altogether. What damage can be done to pets by lighting fireworks? And how tenable is a fireworks ban? 

Fireworks injury and food poisoning

Joris Robben, head of the section of Emergency and Intensive Care Medicine at the Department of Clinical Sciences: We very rarely treat fireworks-related cases. What we do see a bit more of around the holidays are poisonings with 'normal' foods. Think of poisoning in dogs by eating chocolate or sweetened products. Chocolate contains theobromine, which has a stimulating effect on the nervous system and heart muscle. Many sweet products contains xylitol as sweetener, which can cause low blood sugar and liver damage in dogs. Food that is meant for humans, can thus be far from safe for animals.

Food that is meant for humans, can be far from safe for animals.

Behavioral problems

Physical injury from fireworks is therefore not common among pets. However, behavioral problems caused by the noise of fireworks are becoming more common. Dr. Claudia Vinke, university lecturer at Veterinary Medicine: Clinical studies indicate that fear of loud noises is diagnosed more and more (estimated 20% of the domestic dog population, Mills, 2005). This also has implications for animal welfare. Especially dogs and cats that have been poorly socialized as young animals and animals that have a hereditary basis to react more sensitively to (sound) stimuli are vulnerable to develop very severe sound fears.

Many animals are also prone to relapse, which of course happens with fireworks anxiety, because New Year's Eve naturally happens every year. Some animals are afraid for weeks (sometimes even months!) around the turn of the year. Also, some animals develop a much wider range of fears from their fireworks fears: they don't dare go outside anymore, they don't even dare to go to the window of the living room and they lie shivering in their basket all day and can't sleep anymore - call it a mental trauma.

Some animals are afraid for weeks (sometimes even months!) around the turn of the year.

Fireworks ban 2020 had no effect

"At the Behavioral Clinic for Animals, we receive many inquiries about fireworks training and medication for fireworks anxiety from veterinarians and owners every year, even months before the turn of the year. Sometimes those courses are successful and sometimes they are not. Last year there was a ban on fireworks, but the patients were no less concerned, because there were still a lot of fireworks flying into the air. Only an actual fireworks ban will help our pets to experience a happy New Year's Eve as well, and this is really the only effective solution against fireworks anxiety in our pets!

Fireworks ban: what's the legal situation?

A nationwide fireworks ban is in effect again this year due to the corona situation in hospitals. Imelda Tappeiner, lecturer in Constitutional and Administrative Law at Law, Economics & Governance: Although there is no permanent national fireworks ban yet, it could well be heading in that direction. There is increasing public support for this. Environmental damage, noise pollution and animal welfare may, even after Corona, offer sufficient legal grounds for a general ban on consumer fireworks. An alternative for fireworks enthusiasts would be a central professional fireworks show per place or region.

Environmental damage, noise pollution and animal welfare may, even after Corona, offer sufficient legal grounds for a general ban on consumer fireworks.

Local or national ban?

A nationwide fireworks ban also prevents ambiguity about possible local fireworks bans. A municipal council may not currently impose a total ban (ban on selling, possessing and/or lighting fireworks) in the entire municipality: that goes against the higher regulations as laid down in the Fireworks Decree.

Local prohibitions on lighting fireworks in certain areas of the municipality, the so-called "fireworks-free zones", are possible, based on case law. In December 2016, the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State ruled on this, when the municipality of Hilversum wanted to establish such a fireworks-free zone and there were protests against it. The Council ruled that the municipal executive was allowed to prohibit the lighting of consumer fireworks in a part of the city center. According to the Council this concerned the setting of further rules in the field of public order and the municipal executive was authorized to do so. It was not contrary to the Fireworks Decree.