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The Auckland SPCA has warned its inspectors will take a police escort to close down an arcade game involving live crayfish if it does not get co-operation from pub managers.
The SPCA today said it would close down several games in pubs in Auckland where patrons paid to try to catch live crayfish in a tank using a metal claw.
The animal welfare organisation would visit the three pubs it knew of in Auckland running the game and would make the games inoperable. Other outlets around the country would face similar action.
Soon after the SPCA announced what it was doing, one of the pubs, The Albion in inner city Auckland, said it would not close down the game and had not been visited by the SPCA.
Hotel manager Andrew Jackson said the crayfish were not being abused and the machines would not be shut down.
He said it was the same as picking one out of a tank at a sea food market where there were "200 crammed in together in a tank".
SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge disagreed, saying the organisation wanted to stop cruelty to the crayfish and had yet to decide if any operators would be charged.
He said the games, which used a mechanical, claw-like device to capture live crayfish from a water-tank, 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. "In view of this, after careful consideration, we have taken steps to prevent the further infliction of trauma on these animals."
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 if they did not get co-operation from the pub managers, they may look at the option of taking the police with them to make the machines unusable.
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.
"We find it necessary to send a clear message that the SPCA will simply not tolerate cruelty to animals in any form or for any reason," he said.
He said games outside the Auckland region would also be closed.
The national animal advocacy organisation Safe said seven bars had removed the machines after animal welfare complaints from patrons but "some bars have taken a more defiant position".