A ‘well-respected’ pet shop in Southend has been forced to close down indefinitely after it emerged that the owner has been training goldfish for fighting and then selling them to known criminals in the seedy underworld of South Essex blood sports. Shortly after 2pm today, armed police raided Dave’s Erratic Aquatics on Southend Broadway after intelligence was received about owner Dave Ballpoke, and he was immediately arrested while more than 65 goldfish were taken into protective custody by the RSPCA. According to a police spokesperson, vital evidence was seized that will enable them to track down hundreds of goldfish that have already been sold for the purposes of ‘cruel and barbaric’ fighting, and he promised that the owners will have nowhere to hide from a possible prison sentence.
PC Roger Gravell of the South Essex Aquatic Animal Welfare Division said: ‘Over the last few months, we have been collecting evidence about Mr Ballpoke’s pet shop after a number of allegations were received about goldfish who were being trained to become bloodthirsty fighting fish to be used for illicit gambling and entertainment purposes. It has emerged that he was buying these animals in bulk from other local suppliers, and then feeding them a bespoke combination of goldfish flakes and amphetamines to turn them into ruthless and unhinged fighting animals. To make sure that they were psychologically broken down and rebuilt as trained killers, their tanks were placed in front of a large TV screen showing a constant video loop of young children flushing deceased goldfish down toilets and photos of goldfish who have been left to suffocate in funfair-style plastic bags – all of these images would have had a devastating effect on such an impressionable animal.’
He added: ‘According to the documents that we have seized, it would take around three months of drug feeding and mental conditioning before each fish was ready to be sold for anything up to £1000, and local fans of illegal blood sports would gather in disused buildings all over Southend on a weekly basis to enter their own fish in cruel and barbaric one-on-one combat. Our undercover officers have observed so-called bookmakers deal with more than £50,000 in a single meeting, and the most chilling goldfish fighting event that we observed was in the abandoned gas board office building on Eastern Esplanade. Before the building was torn down to make way for the new Premier Inn, hundreds of people would gather on the top floor every Friday night, and on one occasion the ‘main event’ saw both goldfish jump out of their bowl and literally maul each other to death on the concrete floor. It emerged afterwards that both of the owners had been injecting anabolic steroids into their fish to enable them to breathe outside of water, and five spectators had to be taken to hospital after they got too close to the action.’
In a late development, Southend News Network has discovered that five of the seized goldfish from Dave’s Erratic Aquatics have been checked into a leading fish rehabilitation centre in Great Wakering. Melanie and Ronald Priory have been helping pets to rebuild their lives after drug misuse and psychological abuse for a number of years, and they have even been able to find loving homes for three of them. Mrs Priory said: ‘We are delighted with the progress that these little fellas have made in just a few hours since they arrived, and their new adoptive owners are very excited about taking them in for a long and fulfilling life away from the vicious world of aquatic blood sports. We hope to have them living with their new families within nine months or so, and there will be plenty of challenges ahead – however we have a number of trained counsellors in site who will ensure that they get all the support that they need.’