'Pets as prizes' ban in South Tyneside after council votes through 'goldfish motion' to back RSCPA campaign

Councillors have backed a campaign calling for a ban on the giving of live animals as prizes.

Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 5:06 pm
There are concerns over animal welfare in relation to using pets as prizes at events.

This week, South Tyneside councillors voted unanimously to ban ‘pets as prizes’ being offered on land controlled by the local authority.

The motion to full council was brought forward by Labour councillor Audrey Huntley on September 6, outlining background to the national RSPCA campaign and several pledges for the council.

This included the council leader writing to the Government and both South Tyneside’s MPs to push for an “outright ban” on the practice on both public and private land.

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There are concerns over animal welfare in relation to using pets as prizes at events.

Councillors heard that the RSPCA receives a number of reports annually regarding pets being given as prizes via fairgrounds, social media and other channels in England – with the issue predominantly concerning goldfish.

Labour councillor Joyce Welsh added that putting goldfish in plastic bags with tap water was “deadly” – with issues ranging from oxygen starvation to unsuitable water temperature.

During debate, an amendment was presented by Green Party councillor Peter Bristow to expand the motion to cover events on private land.

This included a call for the council leader to write to venues and organisers of events in South Tyneside who may operate on private land and who offer live animals as prizes, urging them to “refrain from doing so.”

Cllr Bristow added: “I appreciate the council doesn’t have the authority to impose bans on private land but we can, at the very least, encourage and appeal to the better nature of owners and organisers of fairgrounds and fetes and so on, to stop giving live animals as prizes.”

Councillor David Francis, Green group leader, said the amendment sought to “strengthen the motion and widen its scope whilst recognising limits on what [the council] is directly able to influence.”

Meanwhile, Labour councillor Angela Hamilton said the council could encourage event organisers to shun the practice of pets as prizes as part of its licensing application process.

She explained this could include a standard letter or referral to a council website page stressing that the local authority does not promote offering live animals as prizes.

Although the amended motion was rejected by a majority vote, the original motion went on to win unanimous support.

During the meeting, independent councillor Keith Roberts also questioned the worth of bringing a “motion about goldfish,” instead of focusing on priority issues such as antisocial behaviour and housing.

“Even though I have agreed with Cllr Francis and [Cllr Bristow], I think this motion is an absolute disgrace to be brought here when we have got people out there suffering on a daily basis,” he said.

But Cllr Huntley, responding, said animal welfare was a priority issue for the council and that the motion applied to “all animals that may or may not be given as prizes.”

The agreed motion reads:

Across the country each year, a range of animals are given away each year in unsuitable plastic bags at fairgrounds and fetes. Many of them are won by children or their parents, who are unprepared to take on a pet, simply as the result of winning a game.

The practice of giving away pets as prizes, particularly goldfish, has long gone on and may bring enjoyment to some. Acquiring an animal to be kept as a pet should be the result of careful planning and prior consideration. Additionally, action on this matter may also deter people from awarding other pets as prizes, protecting other popular pets such as dogs.

Pets as prizes is often a no-win situation for animals and their potential new owners.

This council:

:: Is concerned about the number of cases reported to the RSPCA each year, regarding pets given as prizes via fairgrounds, social media and other channels in England – and notes the issue predominantly concerns goldfish.

:: Is concerned for the welfare of those animals that are being given as prizes.

:: Recognises that many cases of pets being as prizes may go unreported each year.

:: Supports a move to ban the giving of live animals as prizes, in any form, on South Tyneside Council land.

The council agrees to:

:: Ban outright the giving of live animals as prizes, in any form, on South Tyneside Council land.

:: Ask the leader of the council to write to the UK Government, urging an outright ban on the giving of live animals as prizes on both public and private land.

:: Ask the leader of the council to write to the borough’s two MP’s asking that they call for an outright ban on the giving of live animals as prizes on both public and private land and raise this with the appropriate Government Minister.

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