Loud fireworks are terrifying your pet. Can the law help?

Rights, News

Fourth of July is a popular holiday for people. But not so much for pets. Every year, dogs and cats suffer stress from the loud noises of fireworks (as do many horses). But is there anything you can do to legally stop your neighbors from putting on a backyard Independence Day display that sends your pet into an anxiety attack?

What about laws against animal cruelty?

While specific criminal statues vary state by state, generally speaking, the standard for animal cruelty involves inflicting pain, suffering, or death beyond what is needed to restrain or discipline the animal.

It’s possible for intentional infliction of distress, via fireworks, to meet that legal standard. In July 2016, a man in Georgia made national headlines when he was charged after posting a video, which went viral, showing him shooting fireworks near his obviously terrified dog. The alleged offender claimed he did not know that the dog was nearby.

How about noise ordinances?

If your neighbor insists on shooting fireworks despite the anxiety inflicted on your animals, there might be an opportunity for a successful noise complaint.

Attorney Frederick Koberlein, writing about Florida noise ordinances, identifies three factors for determining if a noise constitutes a disturbance: (1) it disturbs a person of normal sensibilities; (2) it exceeds levels specified in the written ordinance; and (3) it is plainly audible at a distance. This might be a tough standard to apply to animals and fireworks, and would obviously be a case-by-case determination.

Beyond the law: tips for protecting your pets

Some jurisdictions are taking our four-legged friends into account when drafting rules around fireworks displays and noise ordinances. It is even an international issue. Collecchio, Italy, now requires that fireworks be silent (yes, that’s a thing) to protect pets and wildlife.

But until silent fireworks make it to your town, you can take steps to protect your animals. Talk to your neighbors ahead of time so that at least you can proactively minimize any anxiety.

Also, follow the guidelines from the American Veterinary Medical Association to keep animals safe on Independence Day. Secure your yard and pasture fences so that animals can’t bolt. Make sure pets are microchipped and wearing identification. For pets left at home alone, double check that they have plenty of drinking water and consider leaving on the TV or soothing music.