COUNCILS have been urged to introduce a ban on the goldfish being handed out as prizes at funfairs and festivals.

Animal welfare charity the RSCPA has launched a fresh campaign over fears the pet prizes will return this summer after a reduction in incidents during the pandemic.

While 22 local authorities have already implemented bans or are taking proactive steps to tackle the practice, BCP Council and Dorset Council are being challenged to step up their act.

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.”

Since 2015, the RSPCA has received 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.

Last year 9,192 supporters of the charity called upon their local authority to make a change and stop this practice from happening on their land.

A BCP Council spokesperson: “We have hundreds of events taking place all over the BCP Council region every week and fortunately we have not received reports of any that have been giving out live fish as prizes.

“BCP Council has a clause in our trading terms and conditions which clearly states that the sale of live fish is not allowed and if caught, we could enforce under the Animal Welfare Act.

“We would urge the public to refuse these fish if offered as a prize and to report such incidences to ourselves or Dorset Police.”

Cllr Laura Beddow, Portfolio Holder for Culture, Communities and Customer Services, said: “Dorset Council supports general calls to prohibit giving any pets as prizes, but we are not aware of any such recent activity on our land that we have licensed for use.

“However, if this outdated and socially unacceptable practice does start to rear its head again in Dorset in the future, we would encourage people to inform us and the RSPCA.

“Then, we can build enough evidence to potentially introduce a new policy banning the practice on publicly-owned land, such as we have done with lantern/balloon releases and disposable BBQs.”