It is a mainstay of fairs and carnivals around the country: sink a ping pong ball into a fish bowl and win the goldfish swimming inside. But if a bill in the Illinois Senate becomes law, carnivals would no longer be allowed to award live animals – such as fish, reptiles and hermit crabs – as prizes. 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 the bill with backing from the Humane Society of the United States."This isn't just a 'goldfish bill,'" she said. "Carnivals across the country give out other animals as prizes, specifically iguanas and other exotic reptiles." Glowiak Hilton said these reptiles can grow up to six feet long and become a burden to people who did not consider the specialized care the animals need. "Many are simply abandoned and wreak havoc on our natural wildlife, or are turned into local animal control centers which are not equipped to handle them," she said.

Illinois would join Iowa, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Vermont as states that outlaw all live animals as prizes, according to Fish Feel, an advocacy organization for the humane treatment of fish.

Ken Tyrrell, president of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs, says SB 2472 could affect the $170 million the Illinois fair industry contributes yearly to the state economy. Tyrell also says the bill erases the nostalgia of taking home a small pet from the local carnival. –Capitol News Illinois

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