85% in the South West are shocked that pets can still be given away as prizes

RSPCA’s #NoFunAtTheFair campaign is calling on the practice to be banned

The RSPCA is calling on more to be done to prevent pets being given out as prizes across England and Wales – as it is revealed that 85% of people in the South West are shocked by the ongoing legality of this practice.

The animal welfare charity’s plea follows the results of a survey conducted earlier this month. Data showed that more than four in five UK adults (84%) agree that local governments in England and Wales should ban the giving of pets as prizes on council-owned land. In the South West – 89% of adults believe this.

It comes as the RSPCA re-launches its #NoFunAtTheFair campaign calling for the outdated practice – which mostly involves goldfish handed out as prizes – to be banned. The charity is urging all local authorities across England and Wales to stamp down on this practice to protect these animals that otherwise often will suffer as a consequence of being given away. 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.

New data* obtained by the RSPCA has found that: 

  • 85% of those asked in the South West are shocked that pets can still legally be given away as prizes.
  • 89% in the South West agree that local governments in England and Wales should ban the giving of pets as prizes on council-owned land.
  • 37% of adults in the South West know someone who has won a pet as a prize (a fish).
  • 1 in 3 UK adults (32%) – which compares to 25% of people in the South West – have won a pet as a prize.
  • 95% of those asked in the South West agree that keeping a goldfish in a bag is animal cruelty.

Currently there are 36 local authorities in England who have banned the practice from their land and 12 in Wales – but the RSPCA is urging more to take action after revealing the shocking number of adults who have admitted to winning a pet themselves in the past.

The RSPCA also continues 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 ultimately a requirement.

Lee Gingell, RSPCA’s public affairs manager for local government in England, said: “Ahead of the summer holidays – as fairs and shows become more commonplace – we’d really urge our supporters to help us spread this message that this outdated practice needs to be placed well and firmly into the history books.

“There is clearly strong public support for councils to take action, so we’re urging councillors to adopt our motion for change if they haven’t already. While the more people who take our action, the more councillors will get the message that a ban is needed in their area.

“It is really clear that people are shocked to find this is still happening and there is also a strong body of opinion (89% in the South West) who also want local governments to ban it on their own land.”

The call comes as the RSPCA launches its new Animal Kindness Index. This found animal welfare is threatened by a behaviour gap between people’s desire to be kind to animals and the impact of their everyday choices. For example, four in five people (80%) think animals should either never be used in a way that causes harm (43%) or only when there is no feasible alternative and for human benefit (37%) – but new RSPCA findings suggest that almost one third of people have won a pet as a prize. 

A new RSPCA video – launched to coincide with the Kindness Index – found that campaigners earmarked goldfish as one of the animals they’d least like to be, because they often face being given out as prizes. 

The RSPCA believes that 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.

Lee 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. 

“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.”

Last year more than 8,320 RSPCA supporters called upon their local authority to make a change and stop this practice from happening on their land.

“In 2022 thousands of people supported us in this campaign which we were very thankful for and we’re over the moon to see so many local authorities already pass the RSPCA’s notice of motion on this issue. But clearly, more needs to be done,” said Lee.

“We hope this summer we can spread the message further and encourage other local authorities across England and Wales to ban the giving of pets as prizes on their land, as well as taking action on other seasonal issues affecting animals.”

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