Only curmudgeons would begrudge living things kindness, and only grumps would oppose laws to protect those living things.
But a bill in the Illinois Senate, while clearly being proposed with good intentions, might be overdoing it.
Illinois' Humane Care for Animals Act already prohibits rabbits, ducklings and baby chicks as carnival prizes, but Senate Bill 2472 would expand the law's protections to all animals, including the goldfish that winners can take home in a plastic bag.
Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton, a Democrat from Western Springs, introduced a bill that would expand the Illinois' Humane Care for Animals Act's protections to all animals. Existing law already prohibits rabbits, ducklings and baby chicks as carnival prizes. Glowiak Hilton's bill would extend that protection to all animals, including reptiles, hermit crabs and fish. Like goldfish, a carnival tradition. Bounce a ping pong ball into a bowl and take home the fish swimming inside.
"This isn't just a 'goldfish bill,' " Glowiak Hilton said. "Carnivals across the country give out other animals as prizes, specifically iguanas and other exotic reptiles."
But the goldfish make a good target for the romantics and those who grow weary of regulation of every phase of life. Our understanding of the lives of hermit crabs and reptiles have made us realize that to keep them as ideal healthy pets requires more than a passing amount of work.
Goldfish are probably the easiest starter pet we have available. People can learn quickly whether they're willing to follow through on the commitment needed to care for another living being. Since goldfish live in a world completely unlike our own, that care can also come without an overwhelming personal attachment.
Glowiak Hilton's bill does not apply to fairs, but she's planning on an addendum.
As we dig deeper into the story, it becomes a little ridiculous. Glowiak Hilton's bill suggests a coupon or voucher to be exchanged at a licensed pet store, which means for starters at least one additional trip somewhere, and probably not on the same day. That suggestion also takes away the immediate pleasure of walking away with a prize after a victory.
Ken Tyrrell, president of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs, suggests outlawing fish giveaways would be an economic hardship for carnival workers and a disappointment to nostalgic carnivalgoers would who miss the traditional competition.
Maybe relax the bill a bit, Sen. Glowiak Hilton. If the time comes that we learn about the terrors of goldfish in captivity, then the idea can be revisited.
(Decatur) Herald & Review, Feb. 5