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More local authorities in Wales to ban pets as prizes

Seventeen have banned the practice, with three more likely to make bans

An RSPCA campaign is continuing to make waves across Wales – with more and more local authorities taking action to ban the giving out of pets as prizes on their land.

The tank is now almost full as 17 local authorities out of 22 have ensured that pets of any kind cannot be given as a prize on council land.

Merthyr Tydfil has recently joined the banned list and Gwynedd has also confirmed that a pets as prizes ban is part of their terms and conditions of any fair/market/event held on council owned land.

While Powys, Ceredigion and Isle of Anglesey are all looking to bring in bans soon – which would bring the total to 20 banned.

RSPCA Cymru understands there are now just two local authority areas where bans have not been committed to in writing – Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire.

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As part of its #NoFunAtTheFair campaign, RSPCA Cymru is calling on the outdated practice to be stopped – and has been campaigning for all councils in Wales to introduce local bans on their land.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 – and now a few months later, there are just two.

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 are just looking at two left – which is just fantastic!

“We’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to fill out our campaign action and to the councillors and council officials for their part in getting this over the line in their areas too.

“We really hope that we can soon say that all 22 local authorities have banned this outdated practice.

“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.”

The 17 local authorities who have banned the practice so far are Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, Pembrokeshire, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Swansea, Torfaen, the Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham. Some town and community councils have also initiated their own localised action, while Ceredigion, Powys and Anglesey are likely to join the banned list soon.

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council’s councillor Michelle Symonds, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing and Public Protection: “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.”

While three others are in the progress of taking forward a ban on their land – which when in place will make it 20 out 22 local authorities in Wales.

A Ceredigion County Council: spokesperson said: “A report will be presented to the Healthier Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee of the Authority, which meets on 22 November 2023, with the recommendation that the committee recommends to the full council, the implementation of an outright ban on the giving of live animals as prizes, in any form, on Council land.”

Powys County Council has confirmed that the council’s cabinet has resolved to support the proposal to ban on giving pets as prizes at fairs and events held on council land and asked officers to draw up a policy for cabinet’s consideration.

While in Anglesey it has been confirmed to the RSPCA that the council will be replying to the Minister of Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd following her recent request in that they are considering adopting the prohibition of giving animals as prizes on our land. The matter will be taken to the council’s Executive Committee with the recommendation that they adopt the approach.

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

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.

Sioned 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.