Another 4th of July receded into the history books earlier this summer — another 4th of July that my poor rescue mix Grant spent alternately huddled in a quivering ball or frantically trying to wedge his fluffy frame inside our bathroom cabinets. So I’m absolutely overjoyed that we get to relive the magic all over again this Labor Day weekend. Yes, that’s snarky sarcasm you’re detecting … mixed with the tiniest fairy-dust sprinkling of utter exasperation.
Since Grant became part of our family, we’ve rarely had an opportunity to witness the sparkling sky-bound displays associated with annual holidays like these. Turns out, it’s fairly tough to find entirely soundproof boarding kennels or canine-friendly bomb shelters anywhere in our area. That means that with nearly every crackle, boom, and thud, we strive in vain to comfort Grant at home as he howls, hyperventilates, and heaves all over my favorite throw pillows.
Again this holiday, we will be applying our standard formula of Thundershirt + Rescue Remedy + Netflix cranked loud enough to infuriate the neighbors. This procedure pacifies Grant, to a degree — though, once again, as I sit covered in dog drool, I’ve found myself wondering if anyone has ever considered the possibility of silent pyrotechnics. After all, many of these displays must take place near residential areas, elder-care facilities, and/or animal shelters, right?
Evidently I’m on some sort of psychic wavelength with a company in Italy, which has started to manufacture “silent fireworks” for year-round use. Based in Genoa, Setti Fireworks promotes these politely muted pyrotechnics as an innovative, customizable alternative created in response to growing demand. In fact, some of this demand is practically taking place in Setti’s own backyard. The tiny town of Collecchio passed recent legislation prohibiting the use of traditional “noisy” fireworks. The goal was to help minimize sound-induced stress and panic in local pets and wildlife.
Similar measures are also being taken in municipalities around the world. For instance, in 2008 the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, used precisely choreographed quiet fireworks to complement tranquil passages of classical music. This music is played annually by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra during the city’s annual Bank of Scotland Fireworks Concert — an event known to attract thousands of people.
Disneyland Paris has also experimented with noiseless fireworks, after receiving complaints from local residents. Additionally, Birmingham Botanical Gardens in the UK went silent for its 2015 Bonfire Night celebration. Though, unfortunately, according to numerous social media posts, its efforts to create a more family-friendly atmosphere may have backfired (no pun). Frustrated attendee tweets included phrases like “lots of upset children and angry parents,” and “cue 200 crying toddlers.”
Fine, so there may still be some room for improvement. And “improvement” is clearly a relative term, depending upon who you ask. Certain groups of longtime fireworks enthusiasts are reluctant to suppress those signature booms and bangs. One of my friends, a practiced pyrotechnics aficionado, maintains that a truly spectacular fireworks display should always include the thundering “shock and awe” of noise. I can see the validity of this perspective — though another family friend, a military veteran, has been viscerally affected by these loud displays for as long as I can remember.
Independent organizations like UK Fireworks Review (UKFR) point out that consumer fireworks, as a general category, have changed substantially over the past several decades. For example, the amount of flashpowder used (i.e., the catalyst chemical that creates those deafening bangs) has been measurably reduced. Additionally, many regions now impose tighter decibel limits on consumer pyrotechnics. UKFR also notes that certain styles of fireworks tend to be fairly quiet by design. National retailers such as Phantom Fireworks, for instance, carry offerings like flying stars, long-burning light fountains, and colorful repeaters. All of these products are specifically described as no-noise or low-noise options.
I personally feel that this issue is well worth exploring further. In addition to various human members of the population, pyrotechnics manufacturers may want to keep the following “captive audience members” in mind:
I’ve worked with pups (and kitties) who exhibit everything from tremors and anxiety to soiling behaviors, nausea, debilitating panic, even frantic bolting during fireworks. Each year, my veterinarian also reports a noticeable activity uptick in the weeks surrounding the 4th of July. Incoming patients include dogs who have engaged in panicked self-harming behaviors, and even pets who fled in terror and were hit by automobiles.
Like Grant, many rescue canines come from neglectful environments where they’ve developed a pronounced fear of loud noises. And shelter pups are locked inside kennels — often deprived of a trusted human, and unable to avoid the overwhelming level of noise that usually accompanies public fireworks displays.
Animals who encounter repeated loud booms they can’t predict or understand often go into fight-or-flight mode. Local wildlife may become spooked and run into populated areas — even oncoming traffic or busy intersections. Birds have even been known to fly into windows as a result of noise-related disorientation.
Does your pup struggle with an overwhelming fear of loud noises? What are your thoughts on silent fireworks? Share your opinions!