A ROSS-ON-WYE father facing jail time for drinking four small fish as part of 'Neck Nomination' dare, today slipped the net, receiving an 18-month conditional discharge.
Paul Wooding, from Brampton Avenue, had swallowed the four minnows in a booze-filled pint - but was caught out by the RSPCA when he posted the video on Facebook.
Despite his fish swallowing antics, the court heard that Wooding will be able to keep his pet goldfish as Magistrates declined to disqualify him from owning animals.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, 'torturing or killing' the fish - each several centimetres in length - carries the same weight as killing four horses.
This had left the 33-year-old binman staring down the barrel of a six-month jail term.
However father-of-three Wooding, who pleaded guilty to both counts, was told by head magistrate Jane Hinton that he would only receive a conditional discharge and a bill for £515 in costs.
In the video Wooding could be seen mixing shots of vodka, rum, Malibu and gin in a pint glass before adding the fish, which he called "a special little treat".
The fish, which he had taken earlier that afternoon from a friend's fish tank, are then described as swimming around the glass by an onlooker.
The video - filmed at Ross' Golf Inn - shows Wooding laughing and slurring his words as he describes his drink.
He 'nominates' friends to follow suit with their own videos, before looking into the camera and saying "it ain't big and it ain't clever".
Three days later the video was brought to the attention of the RSCPA by a concerned citizen.
Wooding acknowledged he had swallowed the fish, but said that he did not know he had committed a crime, according to Chris Morgan, defending, at Hereford Magistrates Court.
The case is one of four that the RSPCA are currently pursuing relating to the 'Neck Nomination' craze that swept across Facebook earlier this year.
And Mr Morgan said that the charity was seeking to make an example of Wooding, who they could have simply dealt with by a caution.
He said: "He was stupid, he was irresponsible, but he has learned the error of his ways.
"The risk to his own goldfish and to any future hamsters he may own in the future is zero to nothing."
The viral 'Neck Nomination' craze involved people videoing themselves “necking” or downing alcoholic drinks before challenging their friends to do the same within 24 hours.
The practise came under heavy criticism this year after the “drinks” being consumed escalating to dangerous levels, with several people hospitalised after adding kitchen products to their pints.
In his interview with the RSPCA, Wooding said: "Everyone was doing stupid stuff.
"Obviously I had had a few drinks at the time.
"If I'd know there was a law against it I wouldn't have done it."
Rafe Turner, prosecuting, told Hereford Magistrates Court, that Wooding had been drinking for around four hours.
He told the court: "There was an element of encouragement, but there is also an element of preparation."
Expert evidence from vet David Martin added that, by introducing the minnows to a booze-filled pint, and then to his stomach, Wooding "failed to meet the needs of the fish to provide a suitable environment".
Mr Morgan questioned whether the extra expense incurred consulting experts and bringing the case to court, was worthy of the offence committied.
He said: "I don't accept that this is on par with cockfighting, torturing or prolonged neglect."
Wooding was sentenced to an 18-month conditional discharge for two offences under the Animal Welfare Act; causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and failing to ensure the welfare of an animal of which we was responsible for.