Lewis Clark, Holly Homer, Cllr James Pritchard and Chris O'Brien (1)RSPCA Cymru has expressed delight after Caerphilly Council’s Environment and Sustainability Scrutiny Committee gave unanimous support yesterday evening (17 September) to a motion which would ban the giving of pets as prizes on land owned by the local authority.

There is currently no legal restriction on the giving of pets as prizes in Wales if the recipient is over the age of 16. However, the RSPCA is concerned that this creates a situation where the welfare of animals won as prizes is readily compromised by owners who are not prepared or able to meet the needs of their new pet.

Between 2014, and 2018, there were 24 incidents reported to the RSPCA in relation to the welfare of animals being given as prizes in Wales – of which 60% related to goldfish. However, the charity has also received calls relating to dogs, cats, horses, ducklings and other animals being offered as prizes.

The practice of giving animals as prizes can be extremely detrimental to their welfare. Many will die before getting back to their new homes, or shortly after; and winning an animal via a game actively encourages owners to take on pets in a spontaneous, ill-planned manner.

It is understood Caerphilly Council would be the second local authority in Wales to act on this issue – after Newport City Council. RSPCA Cymru hopes action from Caerphilly will encourage other local authorities to implement similar bans.

The motion also called on the Council to write to the Welsh Government urging them to implement an outright ban on the giving of live animals as prizes on both public and private land in Wales. It was brought forward by Councillor James Pritchard, who gave evidence alongside Chris O’Brien from the RSPCA on the issue yesterday.

It will now go forward to Caerphilly’s full council on 8 October, where the local authority’s 73 councillors will have the final say.

Chris O’Brien, RSPCA public affairs and media manager, added: “RSPCA Cymru is firmly opposed to the giving of live animals as prizes. We were delighted to give evidence alongside Cllr James Pritchard on such an important animal welfare matter; and to see unanimous support from the council’s Environment and Sustainability Scrutiny Committee for action.

“Adding an animal to the family should be a carefully-planned and well researched decision. Giving pets as prizes, however, encourages the complete opposite, and places animals in the hands of owners who may have no understanding of their legal obligations to their new pet.

“While a range of animals have been given as prizes in Wales, goldfish are those the RSPCA receives the most calls about. They can make hugely rewarding pets – but can be easily stressed, and very often those won as prizes suffer miserably from shock, oxygen starvation and changes to water temperature.

“The RSPCA now looks forward to Caerphilly Council’s full council voting on this issue next month – with the local authority well placed to make a powerful statement to the local community, other Councils and the Welsh Government that we should bring pets as prizes to an end in all corners of Wales.”

Cllr James Pritchard said, “Animal ownership is a big responsibility, and is one that should be planned and well thought out. Sadly, animals often do not have their welfare needs met prior to, during or after being given as a prize, and since 2014 there have been 24 cases reported to the RSPCA of live animals being given as prizes in Wales.

“As a council, we have the opportunity to ban the giving of live animals as prizes on council owned land, and ensure the welfare of these animals is not compromised, as well as raising public awareness of the issue.

“I’m delighted that members of the Environment and Sustainability Scrutiny Committee endorsed the Notice of Motion that would see us leading the way on ending this outdated practice. I look forward to it being considered by full council in due course.”

Holly Homer, founder of the Operation Goldfish campaign, was in attendance too, to observe proceedings. Her campaign is raising awareness of the welfare problems goldfish given as prizes often face.

She said: “The aim of Operation Goldfish is to ban the giving away of goldfish as prizes at funfairs. It is wonderful to see Caerphilly’s Environment and Sustainability Scrutiny Committee unanimously vote to support this motion. This gives hope that neighbouring councils will follow suit and eventually lead to a blanket ban for the whole of Wales and, hopefully, even further afield.

“This will not only save animals’ lives but raises awareness of the fact that a pet isn’t something you win on impulse but instead a creature that you are legally required to care for properly throughout their entire life. It is a pleasure to work alongside RSPCA Cymru & Cllr Pritchard. Together, I hope, we will put a stop to these archaid traditions.”