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RSPCA welcomes pets as prizes support from all 22 councils

10 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Goldfish await an uncertain future in a plastic bag. Image: Mark Fischer

A campaign to ban the giving of pets as prizes has made a huge impact in Wales, with the outdated practice to be banned from council land across all 22 local authorities

Twenty-one councils across Wales have banned the practice, with Powys County Council remaining as the last council to rubber stamp a ban.

The council has confirmed to the RSPCA that its cabinet “considered a letter from RSPCA Cymru asking that the council consider a ban on the giving of pets as prizes at fairs and events held on council-owned land” and it has been resolved to support the proposal and ask officers to draw up a policy for the Cabinet’s consideration.

Outright ban

Most recently, RSPCA Cymru has also received confirmation that there are now bans in place in Anglesey, Monmouthshire, Ceredigion and Blaenau Gwent.

Monmouthshire and Gwynedd confirmed that bans already formed part of its events’ terms and conditions, while December saw meetings take place in Anglesey and Ceredigion where bans were agreed upon. Merthyr Tydfil also recently joined the list of councils who have taken action as well.

Back in November, a motion was passed by Blaenau Gwent’s full council which banned the giving of animals as prizes on council-owned land. Councillors also agreed to write to the Welsh Government urging for an outright ban to be imposed.

Some town and community councils have also initiated their own localised action.

Sioned Nikolic, RSPCA Cymru’s public affairs officer, said: “Only a few months ago we were calling on 10 local authorities to take action and now we have all councils in agreement that this will not be happening on their land.

“We’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to fill out our campaign action, along with the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd,  Lesley Griffiths MS, for writing to councils in the summer. We’re also grateful to the relevant councillors and council officials for their part in getting this over the line in their areas too.

“We know that this is something people care about – with many assuming it is already banned. Sadly, this practice can still take place on private land despite the council bans,  so we would ultimately like to see pets being given away as prizes banned outrightly by the Welsh Government.”

Unreported incidents

Goldfish are the animal most commonly associated with prize-giving. Over the past few years (since 2020), there have been 42 reports about pets being given as prizes made to the RSPCA; but the charity fears many incidents go unreported.

As part of its #NoFunAtTheFair campaign, RSPCA Cymru is calling on the outdated practice to be stopped – and has been campaigning for all councils in Wales to introduce local bans on their land. So far since its June 2023 launch – 12,295 people have supported the RSPCA campaign which follows more than 8,325 throwing their support behind the issue in 2022.

In July, the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths MS, welcomed RSPCA Cymru’s campaigning on this issue and confirmed that she would write to the councils urging them to act. Back in July, there were 10 councils that were thought to have not taken action.

Back in October, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, took action.

Councillor Michelle Symonds, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing and Public Protection, said: “For quite some time Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council has supported the ban on an informal basis but I am pleased that full council approved the policy and took the opportunity to ban the giving of live animals as prizes on council-owned land.

“This not only ensures the welfare of the animals, but it raises public awareness of the issue and will hopefully contribute to ending this outdated practice.”

This summer RSPCA Cymru released data that revealed:

  • 83% of those asked in Wales were shocked that pets can still legally be given away as prizes

  • More than 4 in 5 (84%) in Wales agree that local governments in Wales and England should ban the giving of pets as prizes on council-owned land

  • 44% in Wales know someone who has won a pet as a prize (a fish)

  • 1 in 3 UK adults (32%) have won a pet as a prize – this rose to 38% when applied to those asked in Wales

  • 89% of those asked in Wales agree that keeping a goldfish in a bag is animal cruelty

Ocygen starvation

The RSPCA believes animal ownership is a big responsibility, and while goldfish can make great companions, they shouldn’t be acquired via a spur-of-the-moment game.

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, while many may die before their new owners can get them home.

Misunderstood pets

Sioned, from RSPCA Cymru, added: “They’re misunderstood pets as they can make great companions; but can actually be challenging to look after. New owners must do their research before they acquire the fish, not afterwards.

“Before 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.”

The RSPCA will also continue to make the case to both the UK Government and Welsh Government that pets being given away as prizes should be banned outright, and that national legislation in both countries is much-needed.

You can find out more about the RSPCA’s #NoFunAtTheFair campaign here.


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