Heroic Pigeons

By Elissa Katz, President, Humane PA PACSee the source image

During World War I, a pigeon named Cher Ami flew for the US Army Signal Corp in France, and served on the front lines for many months. She is credited with single-handedly saving the lives of over 200 American soldiers by flying 25 miles and through a sky of bullets, sustaining serious injuries in the process, to deliver a life-saving message to the Allied lines on behalf of the embattled 77th Infantry Division.  Cher Ami was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and the “silver medal” by General Pershing for his heroism and bravery.

What a contrast with how we treat pigeons in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, pigeons like Cher Ami are netted, often unlawfully and from out of state, stockpiled, and then used for live target shooting competitions known as pigeon shoots.

The British depended on pigeons so extensively during wartime that, in 1943, they created a special medal of honor specifically for military animals, known as the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross. 32 pigeons have been awarded the Dickin medal.

In Pennsylvania, pigeons wounded at live pigeon shoots are deprived veterinary care and left to suffer from their wounds for hours or days, until they ultimately succumb to death. Often, wounded pigeons are buried alive or simply discarded in trashcans.

A pigeon named Commando flew approximately 90 missions delivering critical intelligence for the Allied forces during World War II, enabling the Allied forces to be better able to fight and contributing valuable victories against the Nazis.  As a result of his wartime service and contributions, he was awarded the Dickin Medal.

In Pennsylvania, pigeons just like Commando are flung from boxes at live pigeon shoot competitions and shot at close range. Their lives have no value, other than being used as targets.

A pigeon named President Wilson served with both the U.S. Army Tank Corps and the Infantry during World War I, flying through barrages of enemy bullets to deliver his messages. G.I. Joe, a pigeon who served for the Allied forces during WWII, and another Dickin Medal recipient, is credited with saving the lives of approximately 1000 people. Winkie, the first animal to receive the Dickin Medal, is credited with saving the lives of the crew of a damaged RAF bomber during WWII.  The list of heroic, brave pigeons, who have saved scores of human lives during wartime, can go on and on –  pigeons have historically served essential roles in times of need.

In Pennsylvania, a small group of people continue to organize and participate in live pigeon shoots. Although pigeons have been of great service to this country and our allies, and although the majority of Pennsylvanians decry live pigeon shoots, recognize their inherent cruelty and want them brought to a final end, our state legislature has repeatedly failed to address this issue head on and pass a law to end these cruel shooting events.  And, while we staunchly believe that the cruel acts that go hand –in-hand with and are inherent in pigeon shoots are squarely in violation of Act 10 (Libre’s Law) and that perpetrators should be prosecuted, a clear, free-standing law will eliminate any doubts concerning the legality of live pigeon shoot events; a free standing, direct bill is necessary to properly guide law enforcement and prosecutors and end any discussion regarding what section of or how our cruelty statute applies. Until law enforcement takes action or is given a directive, a free-standing bill is necessary to rid our state of this cruelty.

Pigeons have served us during the darkest of times, saving lives and helping to win wars. It is disgraceful that Pennsylvania allows them to be slaughtered in our state simply for entertainment.

Senator Pat Browne is currently circulating a co-sponsorship memo, seeking to garner fellow senators to sign onto and support a bill banning live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania. Please contact your state senator (click here for contact information) and ask him/her to co-sponsor and support the bill to finally end live pigeon shoots.

Elissa photoElissa 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. 

Click HERE to DONATE to help strengthen Pennsylvania’s only PAC for animals!

Related article:  What Was the Missing Piece in Animal Protection?




Categories: pigeon shoot, Uncategorized


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