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Fireworks Set Off Online Protests in Trinidad and Tobago

The Animal Welfare Network (AWN) has begun a campaign to end the sale of illegal fireworks in Trinidad and Tobago.

Via a Facebook event page, the organisation is conducting a survey about the effects of fireworks on animals, which it says it will submit to the relevant authorities. AWN has asked netizens to leave comments on the page if they noticed any adverse affects of fireworks on their own pets or any other animals. The venture has gained the support of the Trinidad and Tobago Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA), which works closely with the AWN in public education campaigns.

While some participants in the survey have noted that the responsibility of pet owners to secure their animals should not be ignored, the majority of comments have been in support of a permanent ban on the sale of illegal fireworks. There has been heated debate about the fireworks issue in the country for years now, given the level of noise pollution associated with privately launched fireworks on occasions such as Independence Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. There is a widespread perception that the use of fireworks is illegal, but this blog post clarified the boundaries:

The use of fireworks isn’t illegal, but they must be used in accordance with the law.

**“Fireworks” is specified under the Summary Offences Act 1921, as amended to include bombs, torpedoes, squibs, rockets and serpents;

Where it can be used:
The Summary Offences Act 1921, as amended

99. (1) Except as prescribed by **Regulations under this Act, any person who throws, casts, sets fire to, or lets off any fireworks within any town is liable to a fine of one thousand dollars ($1000).

(2) In this section and in sections 100 and 101, “town” includes the City of Port-of-Spain, the City of San Fernando, and the Borough of Arima, and every part of the area within two miles of the boundaries of such City or of either of such Boroughs, and also any place or area declared by the Minister, by Order, to be a town or to be deemed to be included within a town for the purposes of the said sections.

100. Any person who throws, casts, sets fire to, or lets off any fireworks into, in, or upon any street not being in any town, or into, in, or upon any place being within sixty feet of the centre of any such street, is liable to a fine of four hundred dollars ($400).

This means that the use of fireworks without a permit can legally only occur in the most rural of areas.

**Permission to set off fireworks: Fireworks Permits Regulations (made under s. 101 of the SOA)

If someone wants to set off fireworks in one of the ‘banned’ areas, permission must be obtained at least forty-eight (48) hours prior, from the Commissioner of Police or a Superintendent with the authority, which will be in writing, prescribing the time and place.

The administrators of the TTSPCA's South shelter made a passionate contribution to the debate by posting:

Even if pets are secured, what about their suffering and distress not to mention HUMANS who have heart conditions, anxiety, epilepsy etc. I think people who support fireworks are hypocrites, they want people to tolerate them but they themselves are intolerant and inconsiderate of others!

The issue of pet owners administering sedatives was also discussed. Veterinary Assistant Christian Gosein posted:   

For the month of December alone, I'd estimate that we have sold well over one thousand sedative tablets at our clinic for the specific purpose of preventing dogs from panicking and injuring themselves during fireworks. This is more than we sell in the other 11 months combined for any purpose whether it be Divali sedation, Independence Day sedation, epilepsy management or sedation for transport.

Normally, most people would come in once and request a dosage for Old Year's Night only. This past December in particular, we've seen an increase of customers requesting additional doses for multiple days and nights, of which we have to discourage as multiple sedations are putting your dog at risk for death. 

This is a measure of how much worse the situation has gotten and how desperate and helpless our customers felt this year.

We currently are taking care of a dog that sliced her leg open due to panic caused by fireworks.

Over the course of my 12 year old pompek's life, when fireworks go off he has panicked and managed to squeeze through areas he would normally never think of trying to go through and has damaged his neck, ribs and legs. In his life, he has ran away twice, both times during peak firework hours, and was only found because we have nice neighbours.

Other Facebook users commented on the legality of fireworks in Trinidad and Tobago and the enforcement of laws relating to fireworks.

Denise Indalsingh noted:

We can get EMA to stop a fete in some isolated location because of noise pollution but we can't get anyone to stop/ban the fireworks et al which go on day/night for days throughout the entire country. Everyone I spoke to said that last Old Years was the worst they have experienced in terms of noise from fireworks, scratch bombs, etc. You think it ‘s going to get any better this year? Definitely not! The lawlessness and disregard for fellow citizens grow daily. That's why it is imperative that something be done about this nuisance ASAP.

The survey runs until January 31st, after which the comments will be sent to law enforcement and government authorities.

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