Victoria Day ignites debate over fireworks’ effects on animals, PTSD victims

Massive firework displays have long been a mainstay for Victoria Day as a way to end the May long weekend with a bang. But not all Canadians are looking forward to these celebrations, with concerns over the fireworks’ impact on pets, wildlife and people with PTSD.

In Nova Scotia, retired veterinarian Hugh Chisholm has been advocating for a provincial ban on recreational fireworks. He’s one of the organizers of a petition that has garnered nearly 15,000 signatures on

“I don’t want to be a curmudgeon that sits here and says, ‘You can’t have fun,'” Chisholm told CTV News Atlantic last week. “The problem is that fun comes at a cost to others.”

Many dog and cat owners have observed their pet hiding in fear whenever the sound of fireworks can be heard. There have even been stories of pets going missing after being spooked by fireworks and running away.

But for owners of livestock, the consequences can be even more dire. Chisholm’s petition was launched after a horse in Canning, N.S. broke its leg after panicking upon hearing New Year’s Eve fireworks. With the leg injured beyond repair, the horse had to be put down.

“Triggering such panic in livestock can also result in devastating financial loss due to veterinary bills, animal death and human inability to work because of injury sustained while trying to handle panicking animals,” the petition states.

Fireworks can also cause significant disruptions for wildlife, particularly birds. A 2011 study found that after a firework display for New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands, thousands of birds fled “en mass.” Researchers say these panicked flights can lead to loss of energy, disorientation, reduction of food intake upon relocation to an unfamiliar foraging site and even weakened immune functions.

“We estimate that hundreds of thousands of birds in the Netherlands take flight due to fireworks,” the researchers said.

And in the U.K., British media outlets and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reported last November that a terrified deer had smashed off its own antlers after fleeing the sounds of fireworks.

The loud noises and smell of smoke from the fireworks can also trigger post-traumatic stress disorder among combat veterans as well as survivors of gun violence, according to the U.S. National Center for PTSD. In a survey conducted by Veterans Affairs Canada in 2013 among veterans released from service from 1998 to 2012, 13.1 per cent of respondents reported having PTSD.


At Banff National Park, home to many protected species, the towns of Banff and Canmore in Alberta switched to using low-noise, low-altitude fireworks in 2018 in order to minimize the impact on the wildlife.

Drone displays involving anywhere between 20 to upwards of 2,000 LED-equipped unmanned aerial vehicles have also been growing in popularity as an alternative to fireworks. In the U.S. several communities on the California-Nevada border are planning on switching to drone shows for their July 4 fireworks this year ahead of wildfire season.

With files from CTV News Atlantic and Reuters

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