Councils join 'goldfish as prizes' ban

East Lindsey District Council is one of dozens of local authorities to ban the giving of goldfish in plastic bags as prizes.
Three goldfish swim in a plastic bag at a carnival before going home with the lucky winner of a midway game.Three goldfish swim in a plastic bag at a carnival before going home with the lucky winner of a midway game.
Three goldfish swim in a plastic bag at a carnival before going home with the lucky winner of a midway game.

RSPCA’s #NoFunAtTheFair campaign is calling on the practice of goldfish being given out as a prize – most often at funfairs – to be banned, and the charity is urging local authorities across England and Wales to act to protect these animals that otherwise often will suffer as a consequence of being given away.

Reports have stalled since coronavirus restrictions began and shows stopped taking place - but the RSPCA fear this will change this summer as fairgrounds and fetes return properly for 2022.

Since 2015, the RSPCA has had 147 calls about goldfish and other aquatic animals being given as prizes - with a small number of these calls coming in over the past two years.

However public opinion proves to be strong on the issue as last year more than 9,000 RSPCA supporters called upon their local authority to make a change and stop this practice from happening on their land.

Lee Gingell, RSPCA’s public affairs manager for local government in England, said: “As Covid restrictions ease, there's a real risk that goldfish as prizes will return in big numbers as funfairs and festivals resume.

"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, and many may die before their new owners can 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.”

There are 22 local authorities in England who have already implemented bans or are taking action against this practice - including East Lindsey District Council – and the RSPCA urges others to join them.

A spokesman for West Lindsey District Council’s Housing & Environmental Enforcement team said: “As far as the Council understands this, placing a ban on this type of activity is relevant to the land in which the fair takes place on.

"As it stands, West Lindsey District Council do not host any fairs on land that they own, therefore are not in a position to place a ban on this type of activity.”

On 20 June, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park - the Minister for animal welfare - confirmed that Defra has "commissioned some work on the issue of pets being handed out as prizes" in England; and that the UK Government is looking at the issue "very closely". Meanwhile, in Wales, the Welsh Government suggested in 2019 a willingness to act and that it would take forward "a separate piece of work" on the issue; though this has yet to materialise.

Lee added: “There’s huge momentum behind the RSPCA campaign - last year thousands of people supported us in this campaign and we're over the moon to see so many local authorities already pass the RSPCA's notice of motion on this issue.

“We were also pleased to hear that pets as prizes was mentioned in Parliament last week by Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park - who is the Minister with responsibility for animal welfare - who announced that Defra has commissioned some work on the issue for England. Our ultimate goal would be for the practice to be banned completely.

“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.”

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit our website or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.