The issues with using animals as prizes

Evan Baldonado

By Evan Baldonado
(Founder of AquariumKids)


At carnivals and fairs around the world, fish and other animals are used as prizes. In fact, AquariumKids was originally created as a resource for families who won goldfish at Duveneck Elementary School's annual Harvest Carnival. Despite the fact that AquariumKids would not exist in the first place if it were not for the practice of using animals as prizes, I am still opposed to the practice.

The Argument

The primary reason for not giving away live animals as prizes is that people won't be prepared to care for these animals without the time to first research their proper care. The majority of people receiving animals as prizes aren't prepared to care for them properly. Here's why this is an issue:

Harms to animals

Most pets have unique care requirements in that they require specialized care and enclosures to be safe and healthy. Without prior research, people might not know that goldfish shouldn't be kept in fish bowls (they can grow to over a foot long and produce massive amounts of waste relative to most other pet fishes). Furthermore, when it comes to fish, they require dechlorinated water to live in. The trace amounts of chlorine and chloramine in tap water used for disinfecting purposes can be very harmful to fish. Dechlorinator can generally only be purchased at pet stores, and it is very likely that many new owners won't purchase it in time. Also, it is important to cycle a fish tank. Though the merits of fishless versus fish-in cycling are debatable, the general consensus is that fishless cycling is preferable for beginners. In other words, even if a new fishkeeper is able to research the proper care of their fish and purchase dechlorinator beforehand, they will still have to fish-in cycle their tank.

Harms to ecosystems

When people no longer want their pets, some of them will release them into the wild. Though often well-intentioned, this can wreak havoc upon ecosystems. Goldfish and other pets can become invasive species that outcompete or even eat many native species, disrupting the natural balance of ecosystems. For example, Burmese Pythons released by pet owners have taken over the Everglades National Park in Florida, and goldfish are thriving in Lake Tahoe. Getting a pet on a whim increases the odds that someone won't actually want to keep it in the long run. Thus, events that give away animals as prizes can inadvertently cause the destruction of ecosystems.

Taking Action

The Harvest Carnival

The Duveneck Harvest Carnival originally gave away goldfish. Previously, I persuaded them to switch to giving away bettas instead as they require less space than goldfish. This year (2018) will be the first year since the creation of AquariumKids that the Harvest Carnival will not be giving away any animals as prizes. Success!

Original Advocacy Speech

Over the last year, I have been writing and practicing an Original Advocacy (OA) speech about the use of animals as prizes. In this speech that I will be competing with for the Palo Alto High School Speech and Debate Team, I will be advocating for a ban on the use of animals as prizes in the United States.

Thank you for reading this article on prize animals (published 6/22/18, updated 10/14/18)! For more information, please browse around! Feel free to contact me at evanb [at] aquariumkids [dot] com with any questions.

Evan Baldonado

By Evan Baldonado
(Founder of AquariumKids)

Original Advocacy: “a 10-minute persuasive speech performed at California High School Speech Association (CHSSA) tournaments that identifies a problem and presents a potential legislative solution”