Published: 11:56, 08 July 2021
| Updated: 14:30, 08 July 2021
The tradition of giving away goldfish as funfair prizes must be banned, says the RSPCA.
Describing it as 'outdated and cruel' the charity says the 'misunderstood' creatures – often kept in plastic bags – are at risk of shock, oxygen starvation and can die before new owners get them home. The practice remains legal in England and Wales.
Since 2015 the RSPCA has received 144 calls on the issue.
While reports have 'completely stalled' since the start of the pandemic last March when events halted, the charity fears the act of giving away small pets as prizes could make a return to fairgrounds as events start-up again this summer in greater numbers.
It is urging councils, who give permission for fairs on local authority-owned land, to ban any events which continue to use animals as prizes.
It says many goldfish suffer as a result of being given to unprepared owners - not expecting to take care of a pet as a part of their day out at the funfair with anyone usually bringing home a fish as a pet, advised to set up the tank at least two weeks in advance.
Alongside pressuring local councils to amend events policies, the RSPCA is also encouraging the public to write and lobby their own local councillors – asking them to propose a Notice of Motion that would ban all events on council land where pets are used as rewards.
This, says the RSPCA, would send a 'powerful statement' to governments in England and Wales that the issue of giving away pets as prizes should be banned outright.
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.
"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.
"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.
“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."
In Leysdown in June, a bootfair and market came under fire for selling small animals including chickens, ducks and rabbits with organisers defending the sale saying all the animals had water, shade and were well looked after.