Calls for 'outdated and cruel' tradition of pets being used as prizes to be banned

Bags of goldfish credit RSPCA

There are calls for the "cruel" tradition of pets being given away as prizes to be banned.

The RSPCA is worried that as coronavirus restrictions begin to ease, many goldfish being given away as prizes at fairgrounds will suffer.

The charity worries that the "outdated and cruel" tradition will return as events resume in greater numbers.  

Goldfish are the animal most commonly associated with prize-giving - and since 2015, the RSPCA has had 144 calls about goldfish and other aquatic animals being given as prizes.

Fortunately, since the pandemic, reports have completely stalled.

Now people are being urged to write to their local councillor, asking them to ban any events where pets are being given away as prizes.

The RSPCA says this would send a "powerful statement" to both the UK Government and Welsh Government that pets being given away as prizes should be banned.

According to the RSPCA, giving goldfish as prizes can cause serious welfare issues.

The charity said: "Many will die before getting back to their new homes, or shortly after; and winning any animal through a game actively encourages owners to take on pets spontaneously without thinking it through - often with disastrous consequences."In April 2019, a man filmed himself swallowing a live goldfish that he had won at a Somerset fairground the previous year.

The fish had been won as a prize at the fairground prior to the incident, which was filmed and reported to the RSPCA to investigate.

Following the case, the local council was inundated with requests asking them to ban the practice of giving live animals as prizes on Council land.

Evangeline Button, from the RSPCA's wildlife department, said: "Fairgrounds are a summer family favourite - and we know many people will be delighted to see them return as coronavirus restrictions continue to be eased.

"But sadly, it’s still too often commonplace to see pets - mainly goldfish - being given away as prizes. This remains legal in both England and Wales - but for the animals involved, there is no fun at the fair. 

"Animal ownership is a big responsibility - and shouldn't be a spur of the moment result of winning a game. To those playing - if you win, they lose. “Goldfish are easily stressed and very often, fish that are won as prizes suffer miserably from shock, oxygen starvation or die from changes in water temperature, and many will die before their new owners can even get them home.

"They're misunderstood pets - as they can make great companions; but can actually be challenging to look after and new owners must do their research before they acquire the fish, not afterwards.

"When bringing a fish home for the first time, it’s important to set the tank up at least two weeks in advance to make sure it’s all running smoothly, and this just isn’t possible for someone who’s won a fish without being prepared for it.“Sadly, goldfish won at fairgrounds are held in plastic bags in unsuitable conditions for long durations and taken to homes which are not adequately prepared to meet their welfare needs. It should be candy floss people take home from the fair - not live animals.“That's why we want local authorities across England and Wales to ban the giving of pets as prizes on their land, taking the lead to consign this out-dated and cruel practice of giving pets as prizes to the history books.”

 A number of local authorities have already taken action - and Caerphilly County Borough Council was one of the first in 2019, following concerns raised about fish being given away as prizes at the Morgan Jones Park Fair in the South Wales town.