Fish Will Die Painfully: PETA Asks County to Nix ‘Mosquitofish’ Giveaway

For Immediate Release:
July 21, 2022

Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382

Tampa, Fla. – Prompted by a complaint from a Hillsborough County resident, PETA sent an urgent letter today to Greg Horwedel, the county’s deputy administrator, urging him to cancel upcoming giveaways of Gambusia holbrooki, or “mosquitofish.”

The group’s plea follows the county’s instruction to residents to place the fish in “backyard ponds, birdbaths, fountains, animal troughs, rain barrels, unused swimming pools, and other standing water” so that they can eat mosquito larvae. PETA points out that cramped spaces that prevent fish from swimming comfortably are unsuitable habitats for them and that troughs and swimming pools are particularly unsafe, as they likely contain germs or chemicals that could harm or even kill fish—and fish are likely to leap from these areas and suffocate slowly on the ground or be picked off by predators.

“It may be inconvenient to recognize the absolute fact that fish are sentient beings who shouldn’t be used as living mosquito control in birdbaths and swimming pools in which they would live and die horribly,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is calling on county authorities to promote commonsense solutions for mosquito control, including removing unnecessary standing water in the first place.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Horwedel follows.

July 21, 2022

Greg Horwedel
Deputy County Administrator
Hillsborough County

Dear Mr. Horwedel:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals U.S.—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally, including many thousands across Florida—in response to complaints we’ve received about Hillsborough County’s free “mosquito fish” giveaways. We strongly urge you to cancel the remaining giveaways in order to protect these fish.

Fish are intelligent, sensitive animals who think and feel pain in the same way that cats and dogs do. They crave stimulation from other fish and from their environment. Birdbaths, fountains, rain barrels, and other objects of similar size aren’t appropriate living areas in which they can swim comfortably. Fish become frustrated and unhappy when kept in cramped areas, and animal troughs and unused swimming pools likely have germs or chemicals that could harm or even kill them, so they are certainly not safe habitats. Fish are likely to leap from these areas and suffocate slowly on the ground or be picked off by predators. They may also suffer from sunburn—yes, fish can get sunburned in shallow water.

Several humane methods to help combat mosquitoes don’t involve using fish or any other sentient beings. Instead of adding fish to water sources, a better solution would be to eliminate unnecessary water sources altogether. If people made sure to clean out fountains and birdbaths regularly, avoided overwatering plants, and kept an eye out for leaky faucets and pipes, mosquitoes wouldn’t be able to lay eggs in those areas. Mosquitoes also hate the smell of fresh basil, so adding some of these plants near water collection areas works wonders. Anyone concerned about bites could take B-complex vitamins or eat brewer’s yeast daily, and oil of citronella and oil of pennyroyal mint are both effective repellents when diluted with vodka or vegetable oil and dabbed on the skin. Other helpful tips for avoiding mosquito bites can be found here.

Frankly, there is no way to ensure that the fish given away will be appropriately fed or cared for or given a healthy, appropriate environment to live in. Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind