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The Auckland SPCA has closed down an arcade game involving live crayfish at three pubs across the city.
The animal welfare organisation said it had visited the three pubs it knew of in Auckland running the game, where patrons paid to try to catch live crayfish using a metal claw, and made the machines inoperable. Other outlets around the country would face similar action.
Sue Archer, manager of Happy Days pub in Manukau, said she had contacted Catcher Cray, which owns the machines, and was told they would be collected today.
"The crays are very happy because there's water and it's a nice little aquarium for them. Nobody's trying to catch them, and they'll be fine until somebody comes to collect them today hopefully," Ms Archer said.
Ms Archer said the game had been in the pub for the past few months, and it had been quite popular.
"It's $3 a play, and we took $115 last week. But some people chase a cray for about $20, and they'd probably be better off going to the supermarket and buying one that's cooked and ready. So, amusement wise, children come along and look at the scary things inside the tank, but I'm very much against it," she said.
Andrew Jackson, manager of The Albion in inner city Auckland, said he had received the notice and was complying with it.
"We're just waiting to hear from Catcher Cray who are in touch with their lawyers today.
"Nobody can play on the game now, and we're quite cooperative with that," he said.
A third machine at the Tanui Tavern was also closed down.
SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge said they had achieved what they set out to achieve. "We'll just see what happens after that.
"In the meantime we've stopped the cruelty and that's all that matters," Mr Kerridge told NZPA.
"We haven't had anything to do with removing the crayfish at all. We don't know whose property they are, whether they belong to the pub owner, or the operator. That's something for them to sort out.
"Our hope is the machines will be removed and the crayfish with them," he added.
"The pub owners were cooperative when we came round to serve the notices. I think they felt a little uneasy with the game. "There were six to eight games in Auckland, and when the complaints started to come through, some of the other pubs just asked that the games be removed.
"These three remained and that's why we had to do something.
"Now, it's just a matter of seeing the reaction to the action we've taken. As far as we're concerned, this action puts an end to it, and we feel the best resolve will be to simply remove the machines and give the whole idea away," Mr Kerridge said.
He said the games had been the subject of intense investigation by the society, involving expert species specialists and legal advice.
"Our expert advice is that the crayfish subjected to this arcade game are likely to suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress which is unacceptable in our view", he said.
Under the Animal Welfare Act (1999) inspectors "may take all such steps as are necessary or desirable to prevent or mitigate the suffering of the animal", Mr Kerridge said.
He said they would do that by "rendering the mechanical parts of the machine unable to be used".
He said the action might also prompt court action against the SPCA but he was satisfied it had reasonable grounds, including legal advice, to take the action. The SPCA said seven bars had removed the machines after animal welfare complaints from patrons.
The owner of Catcher Cray Ltd was unavailable for comment.