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I Diwali firecrackers create fear psychosis in animals: Animal activists

Posted On : 2012-11-09 21:50:50
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Despite the potency of her name, two-year-old Tequila reacts to Diwali in the same fashion as the villagers of Ramgarh did to Gabbar Singh. Every time she hears the sound of firecrackers, the rescued

Despite the potency of her name, two-year-old Tequila reacts to Diwali in the same fashion as the villagers of Ramgarh did to Gabbar Singh. Every time she hears the sound of firecrackers, the rescued stray shivers, hides under a chair or runs helter-skelter and refuses to eat or relieve herself. Last year, a few days before Diwali, when her owner Rajvi Mariwala took her out for a walk, she tore away from her leash, ran across the busy road and narrowly escaped being run over by a car.

Such symptoms of trauma are routine for animals during Diwali. Canines—who can hear about four times the distance of a human with normal hearing—tend to drool, pant and run when they hear crackers going off. "Firecrackers create a sort of fear psychosis which affects the health of animals," says Colonel Dr J C Khanna, secretary of the Bombay Society for Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (BSPCA). "Male dogs flinch at sounds louder than 60 db and female dogs even lower — 30 to 35 db. If you feed the animal in that state, it will vomit." Birds and cats too cower in fear and suffer serious stress problems — Dr Khanna points out that the sound of explosions during 26/11 lead to the death of quite a few pigeons near the Gateway of India.

Unable to cope with their pets' trauma, some owners find it best to leave town during this season. Businessman Sanjay Khatau takes his two-year-old German Shepherd to his farmhouse in Sanjan during festivals. "This season is torturous for him. He starts whining, crying and refuses to go to the toilet even," says Khatau, who found it best to escape the noise altogether.

As the first instinct of an animal is to cower or escape to a safer place, a door left ajar during Diwali could be dangerous. The festival season sees a rise in the number of runaway pets — last year, Abodh Aras, CEO of Welfare of Stray Dogs, found a Dalmatian on Lamington Road that had run away from a Breach Candy home during Diwali. Even BSPCA's ward for ownerless animals has such runaways. That's why Aras thinks it best that "owners attach a temporary tag around the dog's neck, mentioning their name and telephone number during this season".

Animal psychologists advise a number of ways to calm the pet. "Keep your dog in a closed room and create a safe corner," says canine behaviourist Shirin Merchant. "Put on the TV, fans and shut the windows, as the dogs tend to connect sight with sound too. Exposing the pet to the noise a week or two before the festival also helps, says canine counsellor Sreenivas Jakkani, who once observed that his German Shepherd, Rex, developed a rash on his back due to anxiety. Jakkani then downloaded a set of 20-second-long sounds of missiles, bursting tanks and firecrackers and kept playing them in a loop for not more than 45 minutes at a stretch.

"During the first few days, Rex would run up to the balcony and wonder where the sound was coming from," says Jakkani, who kept increasing the volume bit by bit. "But after a point, he learnt to ignore the noise." Recently, Jakkani even put a pet Dalmatian brought in by an acquaintance through the same process for almost a week. "He now sleeps blissfully through it."

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