Gifts, “Novelties” And Toys

Stuffed Cat Toy

It may seem like an obvious thing to do – to buy a gift or to give a toy with an animal theme to someone who loves animals. Far too often, people find that there are drawbacks, complications or even welfare concerns so we have put together a very basic guide which outlines some of the issues to watch out for.

We give the example of the undoubtedly attractive and appealing stuffed toys in the shape of cats and kittens. They are not labelled. The NSPCA had examples forensically tested and the results indicated that they were made of “the real fur of a small mammal.”

These novelty items were brought into our country from the Far East. To be absolutely on the safe side, stay with toys of this kind which are clearly synthetic. This is also safer from an allergen point of view.

The NSPCA approves toys, gifts and other items that involve no animal suffering or exploitation of any kind, especially if they promote respect and compassion towards animals.

Pets as Presents

Although it has been said a million times, “Don’t buy pets as presents”, this still occurs and not only as surprise gifts for children. The NSPCA has received e-mails asking for a specific breed of dog so that it can be given as a surprise gift for an elderly person at a birthday celebration. Examples abound of parents buying or adopting a puppy or kitten to keep the children busy or to play with over the holidays. You can guess what happens when the holidays are over. We even have examples of day old chicks being taken to schools and handed out to learners – even of unwanted pets taken to schools and given away.

We know you support us in stating that live animals are not toys and we appreciate that our supporters will not indulge in any of these practices. We include the instances so that you are alerted and appreciate that we need to know. Individual SPCAs will not permit animals to be adopted as gifts for other people but this does not mean the individuals cannot obtain animals from other sources such as breeders or pets shop.

Live “Novelties”

We were taken aback to find that Amazon was offering Planet Frog Habitats which can be shipped directly to the buyer’s address. A frog grows up (if it lives that long), isolated in an unnatural plastic habitat. We hope that the scathing publicity and worldwide condemnation of these items by animal’s rights groups and welfare organisations worldwide have lessened demand in terms of sales and “production”.

Then we found that individual Siamese fighting fish were being placed into brick-like glass containers which work on a similar principle. They have been heavily promoted in South Africa as suitable corporate gifts or novelty items for tables and desks. The NSPCA disagrees and we ask everyone who feels the same way to make your feelings known if promotional exhibitions are held in a shopping centre near you. We oppose on ethical as well as welfare grounds. Live animals are not toys or novelties and this includes fish.

This leads to more recent items on sale in South Africa. The NSPCA approached the importers and marketers of Magic Fish and we are pleased to advise that eventually they were taken off the market. The container was unsteady and small. Stocking density unacceptable and as toxic levels increased in the container, oxygen was depleted and they died. The old stock may still appear on some shelves and if so, we ask you to speak to the store manager or to report the matter to ourselves via We have had assurances that advertising will stop and that these products will no longer be imported. If you have any evidence to the contrary, please let us know.

Siamese Fighting Fish Gimmick

The NSPCA was approached in 2013 by the company wishing to import and promote Aqua Dragons which worked along the same principle. We stated our opposition to the company with full welfare and ethical reasoning. If the company decides to go ahead regardless, we ask caring people to let us know where they are on sale so that we can intervene and take up the issue with the sales outlet.

We wish to thank the potential importers of Aqua Dragons for alerting us to similar items known as Sea Monkeys and this is now under investigation and scrutiny.

The Internet

This is an area where extreme caution is needed. Guidelines relating to blocking sites and parental control usually relate to graphic imagery of a sexual nature – but there are also sites where hunting games can take place. There have been arguments that it is harmless as no animal is killed but we’re sure you agree that there is a principle involved. Our view is that hunting games in whatever format are repellent, yet they can be easily downloaded from the Internet.

We ask that whenever you are told that someone is playing games on the Internet, you check exactly what that game is. Desensitisation is a reality.

Check out web sites and games that send out positive environmental messages. They do exist and can be fun.