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Animals as Prizes at Local Festival - more calls are needed!

From: Jeff
Sent on: Friday, January 13, 2012 1:52 PM

Please make sure to make these two calls today or over the weekend.  They need to hear from more concerned folks!

Thank you!

Dear Friends and Colleagues,


We have received several reports that the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival gives away rabbits and other animals as prizes at some of their vendor booths.  We are lobbying the festival promotional committee to ban this practice.  Please join me in calling and leaving a message for Ms. Lanelle Arceneaux, Committee Chairperson, at [masked] and Mr. Albrect at[masked], Booth Chairman, asking that they institute these much-needed animal-friendly policies. 


A copy of our letter appears below.




Jeff Dorson

Humane Society of Louisiana

Ms. Lanelle Arceneaux


Mr. John Alrecht

Booth Chairparson

RE:  Use of live animals as prizes

Dear Ms. Arceneaux and Mr. Albrecht,

As the Director of the Humane Society of Louisiana,  I am writing to you on behalf of our 10,000 members.  We have received several calls and complaints pertaining to the use of bunnies, rabbits, iguanas, baby chicks, fish and baby ducks as prizes at one or more of your vendor booths at the annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.

While using live animals as prizes may seem a harmless practice, in truth it creates many problems on several different levels.  First, many individuals or families who win a rabbit, duck or iguana as a prize are not equipped to properly care for them, and it becomes an immediate added expense to the family budget.  To adequately house a domesticated rabbit one has to purchase a cage, water bottle, hay, and pellets.  The average set-up cost is typically between $50-$100.00, and many individuals and families refuse or object to paying for this new and unexpected expense.  

Rabbits also require toys, enrichments and certain feed, such as timothy hay - more additional expenses.  Iguanas are far more difficult to house.  They require an aquarium, certain foliage and rocks, a heat lamp, and a special diet, which few individuals can afford to buy; moreover, few individuals have the knowledge to provide long-term care for iguanas.  Also, every pet requires daily feeding and cleaning, and annual veterinary exams, which may become a burden to some owners.

When individuals or families object to these new costs and inconveniences, they often release these newly acquired pets into nearby parks or fields, which often ends in the death of the animals and birds, since they often die from exposure to the elements or become prey.  Domestic animals cannot be released into the wild, but new pet owners are often unaware of this long-established and well-documented fact.

Second, these rabbits, ducks and chicks also become an added expense borne by local humane societies.  After each Strawberry Festival, many humane societies and animal control agencies report an increase in the number of these surrendered pets, usually attributed to the unexpected cost of caring for the pets by the new owners.  Local humane societies are often confronted with the expense of housing and feeding a surplus of these special pets, who may end up being euthanized because of lack of space.

Third, many of these animals are sometimes mistreated and/or treated cruelly by their new owners, many of whom are youngsters.  We have received reports of rabbits and baby birds having their limbs broken at the festival by careless young boys and girls, who play with them as if they were toys or dolls. Clearly, offering pets as prizes is not an idea worthy of  your fine festival.

There are many alternatives that can avoid all of these issues:  simply require the vendors to offer plush toys or stuffed animals as prizes.  This alternative would solve all the issues at once and make our jobs much easier.

I hope that you will you ask your committee to vote on this issue tomorrow night at your monthly meeting and agree to prohibit the offering of pets are prizes.  Please inform your committee that the facts outlined in this letter is supported by almost all veterinarians in our area, especially Dr. Gregory Rich, whose practice is limited to exotics, birds and small animals.  For additional information, I can be reached by phone at[masked]-4432.

Sincerely yours,

Jeff Dorson

Executive Director


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