PHOENIX - Turtles, rabbits and parakeets could soon be out of bounds.
But visitors to the county fair or shopping center carnival still could bring home a goldfish by popping the right balloon, making a basket or landing a pingpong ball in the bowl.
Without dissent, the House Appropriations Committee voted Wednesday to make it illegal to give away live animals - with that one exception - as prizes. HB 2121 now goes to the full House.
"Kids were coming home with animals at 10 o'clock at night and nobody had any way to care for them," said Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills. The result, he said, is the animals often wound up suffering and dying.
Kavanagh said that while state law prevents raffling off animals as prizes, there is nothing illegal about offering them as prizes for games of skill. This measure closes that loophole.
But not entirely.
His original proposal covered all animals, including goldfish, which youngsters would bring home from the carnival in plastic bags and then hunt for someplace to keep them and something to feed them.
"It became apparent to me that the ban on fish was something that was not popular," he said, not only among his colleagues but probably the population in general. "So I carved out fish, no pun intended."
To get the necessary votes, Kavanagh also had to agree to let pet stores give away animals. But he figured anyone in a pet store who won a prize could get the supplies they needed right then.
And the measure also excludes farm animals.
Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, praised the measure.
"I consider this a step in the right direction in eliminating the abuse of animals," she said.