BUCKHANNON – Goldfish will be gone from carnival games come next West Virginia Strawberry Festival – not to mention iguanas, birds and any other living animals.
Buckhannon City Council on Thursday unanimously approved the first of two readings of an ordinance that bans the offering or acceptance or live animals as awards, prizes or inducements in carnival games that operate within city limits.
However, the law exempts animals given as prizes during rodeo contests, livestock shows or any event that’s part of a Future Farmers of American program or 4-H project or show, “or any other bona fide youth organization whose purpose and practices are designed to teach or promote animal husbandry, agriculture” or another academic field, according to the ordinance.
Mayor David McCauley said the issue came to the attention of the city’s Animal Care and Control Commission when reports of goldfish and lizards being mistreated or killed during the 2019 Strawberry Festival surfaced in May 2019. Council had directed city attorney Tom O’Neill to draft an ordinance prohibiting the award of living animals as prizes following an Animal Care and Control Commission recommendation.
On Monday, the commission approved the language in the draft ordinance and recommended council adopt it, McCauley said, noting he’s discussed the matter with Shane Turner, owner of Gambill Amusements.
“We certainly support all things all things Strawberry Festival and all things that Gambill Amusements and the Turner family bring to make our festival a success every year,” McCauley said, “but there was an increase in the number of observed incidents involving kids who had won a goldfish or a little turtle or other animals, and some of these animals were mistreated and some were killed in parking lots as the kids were winning these prizes.
“Additionally, one of the gifts were various iguanas – some of which we believe may have been released down by the river. It’s just not a good situation,” he added. “I think it’s the right thing to do. We’re not just concerned about doggies and kitty cats.”
O’Neill highlighted the section of the ordinance that exempts FFA, 4-H and other agricultural-oriented youth organizations. He also noted municipalities across the U.S. have adopted similar ordinances with close to the same verbiage.
“This is tested language that has been utilized elsewhere in the country,” O’Neill told council.
Councilwoman Pam Bucklew made a motion to approve the first reading of the ordinance, which was seconded by city recorder Randy Sanders prior to passing unanimously.
The penalty for violating the ordinance is a fine of $50 for the first offense, $100 for a second offense and not less than $250 for a third or subsequent offense.
Council also approved the first reading of a second Animal Care and Control Commission-related ordinance, which reconfigures the makeup of the board to strike the requirement that one board member be a veterinarian in Upshur County.
“Particularly, it removes [the requirement] for a veterinarian in Upshur County to be named or designated a member of the board and substitutes that for another at-large member,” O’Neill said, adding that two of the three at-large members may be county residents, while the third at-large member must be a city resident.
McCauley said veterinarian Tonya Pickens will still be available for consultation.
“It’s exactly what the Animal Care and Control Commission had requested,” the mayor said. “That body only meets quarterly … but I think that group knows how it works best. Tonya Pickens will be available.”
Sanders made a motion to approve that ordinance on first reading, which was seconded by councilman Robbie Skinner prior to passing unanimously.