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'We're sorry live bunnies were given away as Midway prizes,' Fair says

Criticism of the Red River Valley Fair was swift.

Rabbit populations have a natural tendency to go up. But the bunny numbers at the Red River Valley Fair's midway quickly dropped to zero Wednesday after lots of complaints about a carnival attraction that was giving the animals away as prizes.

The fair in West Fargo opened its 2017 run on Tuesday. By Wednesday they were in damage control mode, as General Manager Bryan Schulz posted a statement apologizing for the use of rabbits as prizes at one of the stands operated by Murphy Brothers Exposition Midway. Schulz said the Fair had put a stop to it and the rabbits had been relocated.

The complaints

The swift social media backlash included Facebook complaints like:

– "Do you give away puppies without vetting the owners? You never know what people will do to these precious lives."

– "I have saved and rescued domesticed [sic] rabbits for 1/2 of my life. They are not a prize. Winning them is no prize, I promise you that! More work then [sic] a dog or cat."

– "Not only is this illegal according to the state's statutes, it is ethically repulsive. I will NEVER support any organization that puts profits ahead of responsible adherence to the law."

There were also concerns about the living conditions of the bunnies that were in cages behind the carnival stand, waiting to be won.

The apology

Schulz's post says in part:

"We understand and agree with the concerns about the treatment and livelihood of the rabbits. Since the discovery, the rabbits have been relocated and are no longer being used as prizes to the public. We did not have knowledge of this giveaway, and we do not condone animals being used as prizes, as we hold high standards for all live animals."

Is it really illegal?

Yes, it is illegal in North Dakota. The state law makes a few special exceptions, but other than those "A person may not give away any live animal ... as a prize for ... any contest, game, or other competition."

Twenty-six other states, including Minnesota, have similar laws on the books, advocates say.

A carnival in Louisiana was ripped by the Humane Society earlier this year for giving away rabbits, turtles, and iguanas as prizes for games.

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