New Delhi: One of the most common and perhaps the cruelest sights during Diwali is a frightened dog running blindly on the road, terrified of the loud noise coming from the firecracker strip tied to his tail by mischievous children.
This scene might provide entertainment to many children, who would giggle and clap at the helpless mute creature, but in reality the festival of lights is indeed a nightmare for all animals, including dogs, birds and cats.
"This happens every year. But if one looks closely at the core issue, we will realise that bursting crackers is just a part of the problem. People are not compassionate about animals and think they can do anything with
them," Animal Welfare Board of India secretary Vinod Kumar told IANS on the phone from Chennai.
"We are not saying 'Stop bursting crackers', but what we are saying is to show a bit more compassion towards animals. Loud sounds affect their ear drums, so the best would be to show some sensitivity towards them," he added.
Delhi-based animal activist Bhavani Sundaran has already started creating awareness among the people on "making Diwali safe for animals and pets" through her Facebook page.
She is a member of the Animal Forum group on the social networking site that understand the plight of animals.
"Unfortunately many people don't understand animals at all. They feel they can't speak and talk and hence have no emotions. But they too are living beings and can be scared and stressed during times like this," Sundaran told IANS.
"I have seen many children teasing animals, especially street dogs. They derive great pleasure in scaring a dog by tying crackers at its tail. I wonder what kind of entertainment they get from there," she asked, adding thaT being a compassionate and sensitive human being is the key to solving many problems of the world, including those relating to animals.
While there are no reliable figures of injuries animals sustain after Diwali, animal welfare associations and NGOs said they mostly get complaints from people for lost pets, injured birds and stray dogs.
"We continue to get distress calls during this period. Pets usually run away. They try to get away from the loud sound of crackers. The smoke and noise are equally baffling for them," said Geeta Seshamani, vice president of Friendicoes, a Delhi-based animal shelter and rescue group.
The birds are usually hurt by speeding rockets that hit trees, whereas dogs get injured when they come under cars - their "safe zone" or hiding place during Diwali.
"Most of these animals go under the car to protect themselves from the crackers. In this process they end up getting injured when owners take out their cars. So, people should check the space below their cars," said Vinod Kumar.
The reason why most animals are scared of loud noises is because their ears are more sensitive than the human ear.
"The hearing range in dogs is approximately 40 hertz to 60 kilohertz," B. Padmaja, founder of NGO Caring Hands for Animals (CHFA), told IANS.
"As dogs hear much higher frequency sounds than humans they have a different acoustic perception of the world. Sounds that seem loud to humans often emit high frequency tones that can scare dogs," she added.
Signs like shaking, trembling, excessive barking and trying to hide or getting out of the house should be understood as an indication of the dog telling you that he or she is scared.
"It is best to have a noise-free Diwali, not only for your pet or animals but for pollution-free air and environment," said Sundaran.
Sharing her experience with her pet, homemaker Preeti Arora said: "My dog refuses to go for a walk during Diwali time... I guess they sense it. She gets very scared whenever she hears a loud cracker noise."
"On Diwali, she would just hide somewhere in the room. Now we have just stopped bursting crackers. We play music and are around her so that she feels at ease and comfortable," Arora, the owner of a two-year-old Labrador, told IANS.
Here are few steps to keep pets safe:
* Keep pets indoors
* Draw the curtains and turn on the TV or radio to provide some distraction
* Take the pets for a walk first to relieve themselves before the fireworks start
* Provide a safe and secure place, such as a carrier to be in, while the fireworks last.
* Consult your vet on possible medical options.