A campaign urging retailers to ban the sale of fireworks has been launched - after a rescue dog was hit by a car after being spooked by the deafening sound of fireworks. 

Crossbreed Penny, a mix of Pug and King Charles Spaniel, ran off just when new owner Sandra Rolfe thought she’d successfully settled into her new home. 

She was rushed into Vets Now where emergency vets administered pain relief and treated her for her injuries. 

Now Sandra is supporting emergency vets’ calls for retailers to stop selling fireworks to take account of the terrible distress and injury caused to animals each year. 

The Vets Now campaign, which launched last week, has already gained momentum, with 83 per cent of more than 3,400 people polled supporting a ban on fireworks sales. 

'Plea to supermarkets to ban sale of fireworks'

In an open letter, Dave Leicester, head of telehealth at Vets Now, the UK’s leading emergency vets, has issued a plea to supermarkets and convenience stores to take immediate action to prevent animals being traumatised and injured on and around bonfire night. Members of the public can back these calls by signing a change.org petition here.

Banbury Cake: Sandra Rolfe and her Crossbreed Penny, a mix of Pug and King Charles Spaniel. Picture: Vets NowSandra Rolfe and her Crossbreed Penny, a mix of Pug and King Charles Spaniel. Picture: Vets Now

Every year millions of pets are traumatised by fireworks, sometimes with tragic consequences. 

Many of these are caused by random displays, and there are fears of an upsurge in unsanctioned fireworks displays across the country this year.

It comes amid mounting concern that the cancellation of large-scale, professional events brought about by the coronavirus pandemic could cause a rise in amateur firework displays in gardens and streets.

Sandra said: “People were letting off fireworks and the noise was just awful. Penny was terrified and it was like she was back to how she was when I first rescued her from Green Acres dog rescue charity in Pembrokeshire. 

“Her jaw was shaking and she was panting heavily. I drew all the curtains and turned up the sound on the TV to try and distract her. 

“About 8.30pm the noise had finished for a while so I went outside and checked very carefully to make sure I couldn’t see or hear anything. 

“Then, just as I was letting her out onto the lawn as normal to do a pee, a banger went off what felt very close by and Penny bolted. 

“I was beside myself with worry and I was calling and calling on her but she didn’t come back.” 

Sandra, who lives in High Wycombe, Bucks, was just getting into her car to look for Penny when her phone rang – it was someone a few streets away to say Penny had been struck by a car which hit her from behind. 

Sandra said: “Thankfully I had my mobile number engraved on a tag on Penny’s collar and the people who found her wrapped her in a blanket and called me. 

“When I got there poor Penny was in such a state – she’d lost a tooth, she was shaking and she was trailing her hind leg.” 

Sandra bundled her up and took her straight to the Vets Now pet emergency clinic in High Wycombe where our team checked her over, administered pain relief and bandaged her bruised leg. 

Penny was well enough to return home later that night – but when firework noise resumed the next day she was so distressed that Sandra had to go to her daytime vet to get a prescription for a sedative. 

Head of telehealth at Vets Now, Dave Leicester, said her case is typical of the type Vets Now see on and around bonfire night. 

He added: “Fireworks can be hugely distressing for pets, livestock and wildlife, especially when they’re let off unexpectedly. 

“They are also too noisy and too easily available. To reduce the distress caused to pets we urgently need supermarkets and other retailers to take action and stop selling fireworks for private use. 

“We believe fireworks should only ever be used by professional operators in organised displays around traditional dates, such as bonfire night.” 

Happily, Penny was soon back to her normal self following her emergency treatment — sat by Sandra’s side on the sofa and barking madly at the TV every time a dog appears. 

But Sandra is now anxious about this year’s fireworks season – and is so concerned that she is considering sending Penny to live with her daughter who lives in a quieter area for the first week of November. 

Sandra said: “I don’t want to stop anyone’s fun – but something needs to be done to restrict firework sales. 

“Fireworks are so noisy now – they just seem to get louder and louder – and it’s not fair on pets who have such sensitive hearing. 

“Aside from organised displays, it shouldn’t be possible for people to buy as many fireworks as they like and just run around the streets letting them off without a thought for others.” 

The RSPCA have estimated that 45% of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks, and with a surge in puppy ownership during this year’s lockdown, vets are also concerned that many new pet owners might not be aware  their pet is scared. 

Sainsbury’s decision to ban fireworks in 2019 in all of its 2300 stores was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.

Senior emergency vet Dave Leicester and his team of online video vets are bracing themselves to be inundated with calls from worried pet owners in the run up to bonfire night. 

The experienced vets are available on a video call to discuss any worries or concerns pet owners might have. Dave explains in his open letter to retailers:

“The dangers fireworks pose to pets, livestock and wildlife is no secret. Every year in our emergency clinics, we see the heart-breaking reality of seemingly-harmless fireworks displays — pets burnt or hit by cars after being spooked, others bolting and going missing, sometimes never to return, self-inflicted, life-changing injuries caused in a moment of panic, and, sadly, also deliberate, malicious firework injuries.  

“As organised local fireworks displays are likely to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, more people will look to hold their own private displays using fireworks. This will lead to even greater risk than in previous years. 

To find out more about what you can do to help prepare and calm your pet in the run up to fireworks night, and to view the open letter, visit the Vets Now fireworks advice hub.

The Vets Now clinic in High Wycombe — where Penny received treatment — is one of a nationwide network of Vets Now clinics and pet emergency hospitals that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.  

All of Vets Now’s out-of-hours clinics and 24/7 hospitals have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times. 

Vets Now has also recently launched an online video consultation service to make professional veterinary advice more easily available.  

While the service is not suitable for life-threatening emergencies like Penny’s, their experienced vets are available to discuss any worries or concerns pet owners might have.  

If a pet needs to be treated at Vets Now, pet owners are refunded the online consultation fee.