Let’s End Live Pigeon Shoots – Now!


cary pigeonsI will never give up on passing a straight-forward bill to end live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania.  My resolve to do so is unwavering due in large part to a beautiful white pigeon – a bird rescued from a shoot held many years ago at the Philadelphia Gun Club in Bensalem.  The rescue  lives indelibly in my memory.  I stood on the shoreline of a neighboring property to the club, my ears hurting from the sound of gun shots, my eyes burning from the cold and from watching wounded birds plunge into the frigid Delaware River, helplessly watching them bob and struggle and ultimately drown.  And then one bird kept bobbing and struggling, and was so close to shore! Finally, he was in shallow enough water that I could grab him. I quickly placed this battered and wounded fellow in a towel lined box, and sped off to a local rehabber.  Although he was badly wounded, he responded to treatment and recovered – to live the good life, cared for in a loft  with other pigeons. This one bird was lucky – most victims of live pigeon shoots have quite a different fate.proflile pigeon.png

I have witnessed live pigeon shoots, the suffering and struggling of wounded birds, the utter disregard by participants for the value of these intelligent animals and the suffering caused by their actions. Dangerous lessons are  imparted to youngsters who not only witness these shoots and must repress a child’s natural instinct to care about animals, and to those who are recruited as “trapper boys” –  charged with the job of retrieving wounded or dead birds, often observed stomping or slamming a wounded bird, or simply tossing a suffering animal into a garbage bin. I understand the utter pointlessness of these shoots – where live animals are used for targets in a shooting competition and not even used for food. These are all good, very good, reasons for insisting that our legislature take action to end these shoots. But, none of these are the reason I will work as hard as I can until the pigeon shoot ban passes the Pennsylvania legislature and is signed into law. My reason is simple. Ending live pigeon shoots is the right and compassionate thing to do.

Tolerance of live pigeon shoots tests our compassion and our empathy. Pigeons are the animals often not noticed, although they are the wildlife we most often encounter. They are not traditionally considered cute and cuddly animals, like puppies and kittens (who if the subject of live shoots would result in huge societal outcry and immediate action). Pigeons have had a bad rap – without underlying facts to support their maligned reputations – but a bad rap nonetheless. None of that should matter. Compassionate and empathetic people do not tolerate animal cruelty in their midst, regardless of whether the animal is a puppy, kitten – or a pigeon.

But, did you know that pigeons are really smart animals who can do things like count and recognize individual people, like you and me? Did you know that a pigeon was a hero of World War I and won a medal for delivering a message that saved the lives of American soldiers?  These attributes – and so many more – underscore how intolerable it is that in Pennsylvania they are used as shooting targets for no reason other than what some people consider fun or sport.

Thankfully, pigeon shoots have a very limited appeal. They are held and engaged in only by a handful of people – bullies with small hearts. They have no reasonable defense or explanation to their refusal to stop shooting these poor animals, since alternatives like clay and mechanical birds are popular and easily available.  Since pigeon shoot contests are held openly in virtually no other state,  participants come from other localities – crossing into our state not to frequent our businesses or beautiful scenery, but to shoot at fluttering pigeons flung from a box.

Don’t be fooled by the nonsense spouted by opponents – these shoots are not hunting and have absolutely nothing to do with 2nd Amendment rights. Participants often cite tradition as the reason they should be permitted to continue live pigeon shoots, that shooting pigeons at target shooting contests has a basis in tradition. However, our history is chock full of shameful traditions that have been abandoned and eradicated when they are seen for what they are – cruel, noxious and hurtful. Tradition should never be invoked in support of cruelty and mistreatment of living beings.

Compassion and kindness are not selective. If we insist on the humane treatment of dogs, cats, horses and other animals – we must also insist on the humane treatment of pigeons. I challenge every legislator who proudly supported Act 10 and had a photo op with heroic little Libre, to embrace the bill to end live pigeon shoots, to commit to tackling this issue head on, to move the bill currently sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee, to introduce a similar bill in the House. I call on all of you who worked so hard to push Act 10 over the finish line, who emailed and called your legislators, gave so much of yourselves, and raised your voices against cruelty, to join me in my pledge to work as hard as I can until the pigeon shoot ban passes the legislature and is signed into law by the governor.  Although it should be clear that the activities at live pigeon shoots violate our cruelty laws the reality is that, to date, district attorneys and the courts have  utterly failed to enforce the law.   Let’s stand together and harness our energies to push the bill to end live pigeon shoots over the finish line, and seal the fate of these cruel events. The reason is simple: ending live pigeon shoots is the right and compassionate thing to do.

katz_fullElissa B. Katz is the President of Humane PA PAC and a partner in the law firm of Meranze, Katz, & Gaudioso, P.C. in Philadelphia. She is a regular volunteer with the Northeast Animal Rescue, assisting with cat care.  She is also a board member of  Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.

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Categories: Animal cruelty, Featured, Pennsylvania Politics, pigeon shoot, Uncategorized


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