While we celebrate Diwali by lighting lamps, wearing new clothes, gorging on delicious food and enjoying the holidays with friends and family, we must remain mindful of the safety and well-being of our animal friends. Every Diwali people of all age groups gather to light firecrackers for the sheer pleasure of viewing a stunning visual pyrotechnic display. However, firecrackers can be very dangerous for animals. Because many animals have a more developed sense of perception and firecrackers are frightening to them.
Dogs, for example, are renowned for their sense of smell and hearing. They are known to have more than 200 million olfactory receptors and can hear sounds within a frequency of 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz - that's four times better than what humans can hear. The fumes and explosions that accompany firecrackers can only be described as an assault on dogs' senses, scaring and aggravating them. Countless pets go missing every Diwali, simply from trying to escape the loud explosions and fumes all around. Street animals have it worse. In the days leading to Diwali, you may find your friendly neighbourhood canine sentinel missing and you can only hope that she or he has retreated to a safe spot to hide from the chaos that will ensue in the coming days. Each of us has seen at least one street dog, cat or cow bolt past us, in an attempt to hide from the noise, while they try and dodge both fireworks and motorists.
Animal shelters, welfare organizations and even the streets are filled with animals who have suffered grievous burn injuries or been hit by vehicles as they try to run away. Even birds are not spared. Rockets and other propeller-based fireworks land in trees and nests; many birds choke on the smoke and collapse from heat, shock and exhaustion.
While regulations limit the time fireworks can be lit and their decibel levels, these rules are rarely implemented. Tests conducted by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board revealed that the noise levels of most firecrackers violate the prescribed norms. Therefore, it is necessary to control the indiscriminate burning of firecrackers, especially in the light of the dangers they pose to us as well as the environment. In many countries, firecrackers may be lit only at specific locations and only by those who obtain a licence for the same.
There are also those who oppose the placement of restrictions and curbs on what they consider their right to celebrate festivals in accordance with culture and tradition. However, Diwali was traditionally celebrated by lighting lamps. Crackers are a recent addition to the celebrations.
Therefore, this Diwali, you can:
- Pledge to not burn any firecrackers and do yourself and the environment a favour.
- Make your friends and family aware of the dangers of firecrackers.
- Work with your housing society/building/community to ensure that people avoid crackers that emit too much smoke and do not burn crackers that are louder than the prescribed limits.
- Ensure that crackers are burnt away from trees, ponds, abandoned/empty buildings or rooms where animals may reside or take refuge.
- Take good care of your pets and animals in your vicinity.
- Try and shelter lost/scared animals or at least make arrangements for them to be dropped off at animal welfare organizations.
- As far as possible, provide pets with food, water and shelter for the duration of the festival; keep a first aid kit handy in case of any medical emergencies.
- If you come across any instances of animal cruelty, please report it to our toll-free tip-line (7674922044) or your nearest animal welfare organization or the police station.
- If you come across injured animals, take them to your nearest animal welfare organization or vet hospital for immediate veterinary care.
This Diwali, open your hearts and minds to the welfare of animals. Here's wishing you and your four-legged and feathered friends a very safe, cruelty-free and a happy Diwali!