The old white lady and the goldfish

Some of today’s papers carried a “the world’s gone mad” kind of story about how a pet shop owner, a great-grandmother no less, was given a £1,000 fine and will be made to wear an electronic tag to enforce a 7am-7pm curfew after being caught selling a goldfish to a 14-year-old boy. The story was trumpeted by the Daily Mail which compared it with the light sentences being given out to some violent criminals. But was the story all it seemed?

Even the Metro said that there was, in fact. The shop was investigated, according to Trafford council, after a teenage girl with learning disabilities bought a gerbil from there and proceeded to drown the animal in a cup of coffee (in the Mail’s version, the gerbil died after being put in a coffee cup with a plastic lid on it). During an inspection, a cockatiel with a broken leg and eye problems was noticed; it was subsequently put down (the Mail doesn’t mention this at all). Even so, there are laws about selling pets to kids who are underage, because animals need looking after. The child is likely to get bored with the animal after a few weeks and less inclined to do such things as clean out the cage or hutch, or whatever. If an adult buys the animal, it’s their responsibility.

This woman knew the law, broke it and got a fine. Bang to rights. But the Daily Mail takes exception just because “The Law”, which ought to be out there catching “real criminals”, is bothering “little old white ladies”, in the words of that police chief from 2005, instead. Don’t they realise that the law applies to them as to everyone else?

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