Several hundred animals were picked up by the SPCA over the festive season. The group again urges people to think of pet safety.

LIGHTING up the night sky with a magnificent display of pyrotechnics is a popular and fun way to usher in a new year; but while it may be enjoyable for us, it is hellish for our four-legged companions.

Fireworks, along with thunderstorms and owners who have gone away, are the main causes of lost or stray animals over the holidays. This is according to Jolene Delport, a supervisor in the public relations and education department of the Johannesburg Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

The use of fireworks affects pets

Over 450 animals were admitted to the Joburg SPCA between 1 December 2011 and 3 January. Of these, more than 300 were admitted to the Booysens branch and approximately 150 were taken in by the Krugersdorp branch, which has recently been amalgamated into the organisation for financial reasons.

“Our Krugersdorp branch recorded picking up 15 dogs in a three-hour period on 1 January 2012,” Delport says.

“Our Booysens SPCA inspector on duty was called out to a rescue on New Year’s Day, where a dog had managed to get stuck between precast walls from trying to escape the fireworks,” she adds. “The precast walls had to be unpacked to free the dog, but luckily there was no injury.”

Delport reports that there was a large increase in lost animals, compared to previous years. “It appeared as if people showed a complete disregard for animals with their New Year’s celebrations.”


However, there is a strong likelihood of pets being reunited with their owners if they have been fitted with a microchip or wear a collar and tag. In 2011, more than 450 pets were reclaimed by their owners.

“We urge members of the public to have their animals microchipped,” she says. A microchip is implanted between the shoulder blades of the animal and is permanent. The Joburg SPCA fits these chips; for more information, can contact its adoption centre on 011 681 3692.

Should your pet go missing, you should also report this to your local SPCA, animal welfare societies and veterinarians.

To raise awareness about the danger of fireworks and thunderstorms when it comes to pets, the Joburg SPCA has published a pamphlet with tips to keep your pets calm. There are various ways to prepare your pet for thunderstorms or fireworks:

  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day. Try a light jog or brisk walk, play a game of Frisbee or fetch to tire it out. Jogging with cats is not recommended.
  • Keep pets indoors when thunderstorms or fireworks are expected, preferably with human companionship.
  • Close all windows, curtains and doors where possible to block out flashing lights and sounds.
  • Provide toys, treats and other distractions to keep pets occupied. A frozen treat like a chicken stock popsicle is advised.
  • Try to stay at home with your pet if fireworks or thunderstorms are expected.
  • Make sure your pet is microchipped or appropriately tagged for easy identification if it gets lost.
  • Speak to your pet’s vet about supplements and medication available for managing anxiety caused by loud noises.


The best way to keep an anxious or scared pet calm, according to the leaflet, is to:

  • Turn on music or the television to muffle the sounds of thunder or fireworks. Nothing too loud – classical music is great. It is most effective when you first play the music well before the thunderstorm or fireworks start, at a time the animal is already peaceful and relaxed. It will begin to associate the music with being calm and content. Then play the music a couple of hours before the storm or fireworks start and continue to play through bedtime.
  • Don’t fuss over or punish your pet if it becomes agitated with the sounds; doing so only makes the behaviour worse.
  • Act as if all is normal and ignore the fearful behaviour, unless it is hazardous to your pet.
  • Provide a secure place, preferably indoors, so your pet can’t escape your property if startled by loud noises.
  • Allow your pet to hide in a “safe place” if it chooses. This might be a blanket-lined cupboard or pet cave. When scared of sounds the location of which they cannot pinpoint, pets often prefer small, enclosed areas.
  • If your pet runs to hide in a corner or under the bed, don’t try to coax it out; let it be where it feels safe.
  • Ensure that you are calm and stress-free so that your pet’s fear doesn’t mirror your fear.

Once you ride out the first thunderstorm or fireworks display, you will get better at managing your pet’s fear and anxiety.

“We cannot prevent thunderstorms, but we can prevent the noise created by fireworks,” the pamphlet reads. “Remember, there is always the option of no or low-noise fireworks.”

For more information, contact the Joburg SPCA on 011 681 3600, fax 011 681 3660, email or visit the website.

Article placed with the permission of the City of Johannesburg

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