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Staff at an Auckland pub have received firebomb death threats about an arcade game involving live crayfish.
Chris Yates, owner of the Tainui Tavern in Mt Wellington, said emails threatening to burn the pub to the ground if the game was not removed within seven days had been sent to his bar manager Lawrence Putu on Monday.
"People had also been ringing the pub impersonating police officers asking if we had enforced an SPCA notice not to allow anyone to play the game.
"When I asked them for a phone number to call them back they refused. They're not very nice people," Mr Yates said.
He said copies of the offensive emails have been sent to Glen Innes police.
Extra security guards have been employed at night, but he said that was an extra expense he had to incur.
Bar manager Mr Putu said the threats were "a bit overboard".
"The threats were nasty and I got a bit upset. I don't feel scared working in the pub but we've still got to take it as a serious threat," Mr Putu said.
The game, where patrons paid to try to catch live crayfish using a metal claw, has been running in pubs since May last year.
Anthony Terry, national director for animal advocacy organisation Safe, said it had been campaigning since September to get the machines closed down, but had nothing to do with the death threats.
"We applaud the SPCA coming out and making them inoperable," Mr Terry said. "But the death threats have not come from Safe. That's not something that we condone or support, or something that we would ever do.
"This actually started through a Facebook group which is not related to Safe. Somebody admitted they had spammed a lot of the bars, and this included an attached death threat. I did send that link to the bar owner, and I explained to the bar owner that it's got nothing to do with us," Mr Terry said.
The SPCA confirmed it had visited three pubs in Auckland running the game - the Tainui Tavern, Happy Days in Manukau and The Albion in the CBD - and made the machines inoperable yesterday.
SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge said they had achieved what they set out to do.
"As far as we're concerned, this action puts an end to it, and we feel the best result 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.
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 owner of Catcher Cray Ltd, who did not want to be named, said the SPCA had initially approved the game.
"Given the evidence we have regarding the welfare of the crayfish from leading crustacean experts, and the fact that the SPCA had initially approved the game, we are extremely disappointed that they have now changed their stance. We are currently seeking legal advice," he said.
Charles Cadwallader, national chief inspector of the RNZSPCA, said it was considering options on what to do about the six other pubs around the North Island which have the crayfish game on their premises.
Mr Cadwallader said the owner of Catcher Cray had not been given official approval from the SPCA before installing the game.
"An SPCA inspector said that from the sketchy details he been given he couldn't see a breach of the Act. But that was not a green light from the SPCA," Mr Cadwallader said.