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Grieving horse owner calls for restriction on fireworks

A heartbroken Gisborne horse owner wants fireworks limited to one night of the year when people expect it, and can make arrangements for the safety of their pets.

Rachel Hales' horse Fire was so badly injured after being spooked by fireworks on Saturday night that he had to be put down.

The 15-year-old thoroughbred horse, who she described as “her best friend in the world”, put his back out and had a twisted gut from either bucking, falling or rolling over.

Ms Hales said she made sure on Thursday night (November 5) — when Guy Fawkes is officially celebrated — to give her horse an extra feed and sat with him to keep him calm.

He was a horse who stressed but got through the night, she said.

But two nights later neighbours on Maclaurin Road, where her horse grazes, let off fireworks again . . . and this time she wasn't expecting it.

“If you're going to do fireworks, do it that night (Guy Fawkes) so we can be prepared. Don't do it two nights later because I wasn't prepared and nor was he.”

On Sunday night, she lay sobbing next to her dead horse when she heard the neighbours letting off fireworks again.

“I'm pissed off because I was organised on Guy Fawkes night . . . and he died two nights later.”

She was given permission from neighbours to bury Fire.

Ms Hales has been backed up by Stacie Swanson on Valley Road, “where everything echoes”.

“One night we can put up with, plan for and do what we need to do for our children and animals,”said Ms Swanson.

“But it is unrealistic to have two nights in a row, or more, of fireworks.”

Ms Swanson said neighbours on the hill behind her let off fireworks on Friday and Saturday night.

“We were given no warning.”

Her children did not get to sleep until after 11pm, she was up in the middle of the night to move her frightened horses and they had to be up early at the weekend for a scheduled event.

“We had a very long, agitated weekend.”

There have also been several Facebook group posts from owners of cats and dogs lost after being scared by fireworks.

Eastland Veterinary Services practice manager Natalie Smith said unfortunately fireworks can continue for a two to three week period after Guy Fawkes night.

“We do get lots of enquiries from concerned pet owners to buy treatments for their anxious pets.

“It is a real issue for some of them. But we are limited particularly with what we can do for older animals, as any type of sedative has a higher risk for older animals, and they are the ones that suffer the most.”

SPCA manager Lindy Magee said they apply as much pressure as they can, advocate for animals and their owners, and go to the NZ Parliamentary committee.

“Locally we have had no reports or instances but our hearts go out to Rachel and we really wish there was something we could have done for Rachel and her lovely horse.”

Mrs Magee wanted to reiterate that neighbours should be considerate of each other, and let each other know when they would be letting off fireworks.

“Obviously it was an absolute tragedy what happened to Rachel's horse, but it can be avoided by looking after our own community and having consideration and empathy for your neighbour's animals.”

ONE NIGHT A YEAR PLEASE: Rachel Hales got her 15-year-old gelding Fire (see the following photo in this gallery) through the night on Guy Fawkes by giving him an extra feed, and sitting with him to calm him. But two nights later neighbours on Maclaurin Road let off fireworks with no warning or time to prepare. She sits heartbroken beside her dead horse, who was euthanised after being injured so badly when he was spooked by fireworks on Saturday night. Picture by Liam Clayton
HAPPIER TIMES: Rachael Hales' 15-year-old gelding Fire. Picture supplied

  1. Neisha Jex-Blake, Taupo says:

    This is just terrible, my thoughts are with you. When is this stupid waste of money going to stop? Our PM doesn’t give a dam about what animal-loving New Zealanders are wanting – more interested in all the immigrants.

    1. Ann Stephens says:

      Stop blaming Jacinda.

      1. Dee Walsh, Auckland says:

        It is completely valid to lay the blame for the lack of action at the feet of the Prime Minister – who has been presented with multiple petitions and polls clearly showing the majority of New Zealanders want a ban. In the past three years there has been a huge public swing against the public having access to fireworks. As a livestock owner, I utterly sympathise. Landowners have zero control or recourse over the selfish minority who choose to let their fireworks off whenever they want – and the current legal framework allows them. The misery they cause every year for so many people (including on NY’s Eve) is immeasurable.

    2. Suzieq, Auckland says:

      How stupid to blame our PM. Fireworks have been around longer than she has. Get off your hatred buzz and think about the good our PM has done. Next you’ll be saying it’s her fault White Island erupted

      1. Mandee Tait, Christchurch says:

        I love Jacinda, but she is in a position to ban public sales of fireworks and have controlled fireworks events only.

    3. Sonia, Auckland says:

      89% in favour of banning private sales of fireworks, and our Government voted in August this year to keep laws as they are https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/kerre-mcivor-mornings/audio/cathy-casey-government-chooses-to-keep-fireworks-laws-unchanged/

  2. Janine Burns, Marshlands says:

    The local firework display by ‘Gun City’ was so loud, even my 17-year-old deaf dog was shaking, and the bangs were so loud I felt like I was in a war zone. My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest 🙁 I ended up shaking and crying, it affected me that bad, and it was several days before I stopped ‘jumping’ at loud noises. I am ex-military, and even the guns on the ship were not that bad. Motorbikes get fined for having loud ‘pipes’ – how about bringing that legislation in to Guy Fawkes night!

    1. Peter says:

      Me too . . . sounded like a war zone and the neighbours didn’t give a stuff for several nights; the explosions were constantly lighting up our bedroom!

  3. Victoria, Waikato says:

    I hope the people who caused the death of this terrified and precious animal feel some sort of remorse. SHAME on you. Hope you enjoyed your pretty lights … pretty sad that they were so important to you that you disregarded those around you. Disgusting

  4. Claire Ashton, Te Aroha says:

    I think as his name was Fire, a campaign should be created and a petition to ban private fireworks started. Public displays by licensed professionals only !

    1. Teresa Markovitch, Tauranga says:

      I agree Claire. There should be a campaign against fireworks in the name and memory of Fire. We need to get community groups (SPCA, SAFE, RRR, Fire Brigade, Vets etc to name a few) to get on the bandwagon and go hard to campaign and let our voices be heard to what the majority of people want to happen. We need to do this before there is another tragedy.

  5. Julie Woodworth, Auckland says:

    Ban the horrible fireworks!! I’m so sick of this every year. Animals suffer, and their owners suffer – like this poor lady who had to nurse her horse and then watch it be euthanised. 😥
    Councils and Jacinda and her merry Cabinet have the power to ban them. They’re banned in Australia, so why not here too? Or just do public displays then everyone knows to prepare for one night of fireworks 😡

  6. Vicki Caton, Christchurch says:

    I also think fireworks should be banned from public sale as where I live, people have let off fireworks every night. My little dog is so scared he hides behind the door or the couch.

  7. Michelle, Auckland says:

    Jacinda Ardern, what happened to being ‘kind’? There is nothing kind about this and all the injuries that happen at Guy Fawkes. Please make this obvious stand and ban fireworks now before more deaths and heartache next year.
    Now is the time to do it.

  8. Deb Andrews, Christchurch says:

    Sad to read of this tragedy.
    Fully agree with one night a year for fireworks . . . or not at all.
    Our neighbours are still letting off fireworks at midnight, terrifying the pets in the area . . . . Not Good Enough!!

  9. Maggie McDonald, Karitane, Otago says:

    Why are we celebrating an event that has no ties to New Zealand at all? The attempt to blow up the English parliament in 1605 has no place in our country. Why do we need fireworks at all? It is so childish and pathetic and causes more harm than joy. Fireworks should be totally banned in New Zealand.

  10. MaryAnn Stenberg, Whitford says:

    Just wait for the 15 days of Chinese NY in 2021. Fireworks should be contained to civic functions only. Ban the sale of these costly and unnecessary pollutants to individuals. How many of those celebrating Guy Fawkes know what the hell they are celebrating?

  11. Sally, Hamilton says:

    Devastating news, and all I can say is that fireworks should be public displays only, away from farms. Sending condolences on your heartfelt loss. 💕💕💕

  12. Fa’amele Pedro-Epati, Auckland says:

    Condolences to you Rachel and your family.
    This is not fair – your poor horse did not deserve to be put in that situation. The neighbours are so Wrong for this, and downright disrespectful! I hope the Government takes this seriously and that police start prosecuting anyone who lets off fireworks before or after the actual day. Tbh, I’d prefer them to be banned all together . . . you’re basically burning money.
    Why don’t we just have a public display on the night and that’s it. So heart breaking.
    Rest in Love Precious💖

  13. Emm, Gisborne says:

    That is horrible. My heart breaks for you. We had fireworks in our neighbourhood several nights in a row spooking our pets. Money going up in smoke.
    The cost is too great to our animal families.

  14. Lisa, Christchurch says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, my thoughts are with you 😢
    Fireworks is already meant to be only ONE night of the year, however like with anything we have those stupid idiots who take the piss, and sadly this is a result. There are no resources or people to police the one night, so trying to push for one night a year unfortunately won’t change anything. It’s about time a total ban on the sale of fireworks was put in place. Public events only and for the night of the 5th ONLY!

  15. Tina Ryan, Taranaki says:

    So sorry to hear of the loss of your beautiful friend, Rachel. This problem just keeps getting pushed aside every year with heart-breaking stories of injury and loss, but nothing is being done about it!!!! Easy, make it for 1 night a year or not at all. Seriously, we are not even allowed to sneeze in public any more, but fireworks are still allowed any time or day of the year – what is wrong with this country? Really!!!!!

    1. Heron Tangohau says:

      My heart hurts for you over the loss of your dearly beloved friend. Given the circumstances of how it happened, I totally support the idea of banning fireworks altogether. Makes my fur babies scared 😨 😢

  16. Patricia Burgess, Warkworth says:

    I agree 100 percent. My husband and I took our children to Western Springs for an organised fireworks event many years ago when a baby giraffe (in the zoo) died due to fireworks – we’ve never been to another organised event, as we were both very upset over the newly-born giraffe who broke his neck (I believe) due to the loud bangs. We were both horrified and never told our young children what happened.
    I was born in England, where fireworks were rife due to the tradition of Guy Fawkes – who was a bad person and definitely not worth celebrating.
    I’m so sorry about your horse. I have a small dog that sits on my knee and keeps one eye on the curtain (he’s a little more settled now, but still wary).

  17. Marilyn J Healy, Masterton says:

    Ban them apart from organised displays – I have a dog that is very frightened and it is horrible to watch her running through the house. The fireworks where I live go on for night after night.

  18. J King, Christchurch says:

    Some idiots living between Ferry Road and Linwood Ave have been letting fireworks off for the last two nights and my next-door’s dog has been trying to escape over their 6 ft fence for hours it’s so terrified. Last night the noise started after 11pm and it has just started again 10 minutes ago. Should be a great night. Morons

  19. Anna Jelfs, Switzerland says:

    So sorry Rachel 😪

  20. Emma James, Shropshire says:

    Please join the bangoutoforder campaign by the rspca. Join us in ban the noise at Facebook – let’s get this changed. We haven’t got the proof of fireworks at the time she was reported down. Ours was 5th November

  21. Sharon PIne, Marlborough says:

    Huge condolences for the loss of your beloved boy. I have signed the petition to ban fireworks – it a hideous waste of money and devastating to owners who lose animals because of it. The Government should get on this but they won’t, which guts me. All lives matter on this planet, but humanity are selfish mongrels. There are those of us who care but we are a minority.

  22. Edith Ingley, Wellington says:

    The govt needs to make law changes to ban fireworks after the 5th of November of each year. Why? Because lighting fireworks is not the same as it used to be. Some are still lighting off 🔥 right throughout the year. Now how dangerous can that be?!

  23. Veizzy Time, Wellington says:

    What I don’t understand is that we complain so much about Guy Fawkes which happens once a year. Yet we have to put up with the barking every day. The shit that no one wants to pick up.
    We can’t help it if it rains on that day, then we should do it the following day or the next. I am sorry to hear about your horse. But it just seems silly to cancel Guy Fawkes. I was brought up with it and enjoyed it as a childhood fun memory. Why can’t my kids enjoy it as well?!

  24. Carina, Tauranga says:

    Yes, definitely fed up with people choosing random nights since Nov 5th to let excess fireworks off – pets being spooked and little thought to people with children that are sleeping. Get rid of them and leave it to the one night of organised fireworks displays.

    1. Otila, Wellington says:

      Is there a petition?

  25. Mandee Tait, Christchurch says:

    My heart goes out to you 😭 I think there should be a fireworks ban on private use. Public events only. The cost to animals and children is too great. The number of halfwits who let them off with no consideration for others, and think it’s funny to scare animals, is huge. Petition the Govt to ban private fireworks!!!!

    1. Shelley Smith, Hawke's Bay says:

      A response from a person who is pro-fireworks, Taradale community.
      Very sad, but taking fireworks away isn’t gonna make horses never get spooked again ffs . . .