In a world that requires the constant vigilance of specially trained men and women to stop crime and global threats, one must stop and wonder if we’re doing enough to keep our children safe from old ladies who want to sell them goldfish.

Luckily, the UK has picked up the slack so recklessly left by the rest of us and is dutifully busting up the dreaded fish-to-minors smuggling ring led by such ruthless queenpins as 66-year-old Joan Higgins, whom police recently convicted of selling a goldfish to a 14-year-old boy.

Higgins was fined $1,506 and ordered to wear an ankle monitor for a 7-week curfew for her slimy deed, flagrantly casting off a 2006 law that prevents the sale of live fish to anyone below the age of 16 (selling dead fish to a minor, of course, is perfectly fine).

Some may feel the punishment to be a bit excessive for an elderly lady who runs a pet shop, but these people know nothing of the dark, scaly underbelly of the fish trade. Hook ’em fast and hook ’em young is the motto among the anglers. Kids are naive; they think they can handle just one little goldie without consequence — a quick fling followed by a flush to hide the evidence from mom and pop. But they don’t know it’s a gateway fish. No sooner does that roller coaster thrill of goldfish ownership end that they’re back for more, buying more and varied gillbreathers. Soon they’re passing water-filled baggies around behind the school and gathering glassy-eyed in front of aquariums at parties, seeking that next big fix. The luckier ones in the suburbs find a koi pusher to keep them from going belly up, but you’ll find the less fortunate blowing every last dime they have at the carnival, their withdrawal-shaky hands so desperately tossing ping pong balls against a pyramid of fishbowls, each losing tink off the glass sounding perfectly with each incessant drop into their inner ocean of pain and addiction.

It’s a tough sea monkey to get off your back, and the British know it.

So go ahead, say it’s ridiculous that the police not only see fit to spend their time enforcing their fishy law, but to commandeer a 14-year-old boy for a sting operation against a senior citizen to do so. Cry that there are “real” crimes and “real” problems out there that demand their attention. But when you’re desperately holding on to your son or your daughter as they flop about in your arms, the cold, clammy grasp of a full-blown halibucinogenic trip firmly upon them, don’t expect the bobbies to act as your safety net.

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