Arizona parents may soon no longer have to worry about a child coming home from a carnival with a live goldfish in a bag.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, is proposing to make it illegal to give away any live animal as a prize. The measure, HB 2072, also would criminalize having animals used as an inducement to attract customers into any business.
Violators could end up in county jail for 30 days and have to pay a $500 fine.
He is also sponsoring HB 2073 to spell out that anyone convicted of animal abuse cannot have a pet for at least two years. And it is worded in a way so that no one in the same house could have a pet, either.
Kavanagh said it was his wife, Linda, who started getting calls about the problem in her role as mayor of Fountain Hills.
"Children were coming home with live rabbits and turtles and fish'' from a traveling carnival that had come to the community.
Kavanagh said, state law already prohibits giving away animals as prizes in games of chance.
"But it didn't mention games of skill like ring tosses and throw the baseball into the milk bucket,'' he said. "So I want to close that loophole.''
Kavanagh said the current system is not fair to animals.
"When people want a pet, they plan: They go to a pet store, they buy the appropriate accessories,'' he said. "When your child comes home at 10 o'clock at night with a rabbit, this is something which is not going to end well, for the most part.''
Kavanagh acknowledged that there might be a different argument made for goldfish as a prize, as it takes simply a bowl to keep it, versus the kind of habitat appropriate for a larger animal. But he's not willing to draw that kind of line.
"At what level of life do you want to tolerate suffering and premature death for no real, true purpose?'' he asked.
Kavanagh said it's one thing that people buy fish "and maybe they live a month or two and they die.'' That, he said, is unfortunate.
"But this type of unplanned, often unsolicited transfer of living entities, to doom them to certain death or release in the desert just seems cruel and unnecessary,'' Kavanagh said.
His other legislation is based on what he sees as a different gap in the law.
"Individuals who are convicted of animal cruelty can turn around and own animals again very shortly,'' he said.
As crafted, anyone who is convicted of a knowing or intentional act animal cruelty would be barred from adopting, fostering, owning or otherwise caring for an animal in the household. Anyone who still had an animal within 90 days of a court order could be sentenced to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
The measure, though, would allow someone to ask the sentencing judge to reinstate his or her rights to own an animal after two years.
Kavanagh said the move makes sense.
"You certainly wouldn't let a child molester adopt a child,'' he said.
He agreed that, as crafted, the legislation would mean that an act of cruelty by one child would mean no one in the household could have a pet, even if they were ignorant of the problem.
"If you have a child that's abusing pets, it's going to be no comfort to the abused animal that the other four family members didn't know about it,'' he said.