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Only Nixon could go to China. Only Corbett can end pigeon shoots.

Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized

Steve Hindi of SHARK and I do not see eye to eye on tactics.  I think he goes over the line, he thinks I avoid the line.  From our own vantage points we are probably both right.  But on one thing we agree.  The pigeon shoots which take place in Pennsylvania are animal cruelty.  Period.  SHARK puts out lots of videos about lots of issues, most of which are not issues taken up by the HSBC and, as far as I’ve seen, usually chock full of the kind of rhetoric our organization steers clear of (the kind we think goes over the line and the kind he would say is a line we shouldn’t avoid).

But today SHARK has posted a video you need to see if you have any question about whether pigeon shoots are cruelty or whether, even if they are, they are protected activities under some PA law or statute.  It contains no big voice-over track, it passes no judgement on anyone, the only text expresses a direct opinion without hyperbole.  It shows exactly what the aftermath of pigeon shoots looks like and makes the strongest argument yet against the biggest claim made by shooters: that pigeon shoots are protected sporting or hunting activity.

After watching this video I challange anyone to make that claim with a straight face.

Under Pennsylvania law and according to one of the State’s own special cruelty prosecutors at a recent training for Humane Society Police Officers, there are four defenses against a charge of cruelty.  They are “normal agricultural activity”, pest control, self-defense, and activity protected by the game code.  There is clearly no connection to agriculture at a pigeon shoot and I’ve never heard anyone make that claim.  Since these birds are almost exclusively trapped in other states and and trucked in to Pennsylvania to be shot, pest control is also a rare and weak legal claim- unless we’re claiming to be helping with New York City’s pigeon problem.  Self defense? Come on. 

The only claim that stands up to the barest scrutiny and the one that law enforcement gives a vague nod to when choosing not to prosecute shooters is the game code protection claim.  So, let’s look at that.  This video shows a pile of dead birds, left to rot following a shoot.  Obviously no fair chase took place since they were part of a pigeon shoot and were, therefore, launched from a a cage to be shot at.  The evidence of live animals in that pile means no reasonable care was taken to even ensure they were properly killed- the appropriate mantra for any true hunter or fisherman.  No one ate them.  Even many cock-fighters eat their birds after a losing fight, yet we still rightly made cockfighting a felony.

And it appears that dozens of the birds were banded.  That means a person raised and cared for them and that they are, by definition, not wild but are domesticated animals.  They are, by definition, not game animals and the game code offers no defense against a charge of cruelty in this case.  A couple hundred domestic animals were shot for a fee and left to die slowly in a maggot infested pile.  Would that be legal if it was chickens? Cats? Cows? Dogs?  No.  And it is not legal for pigeons.

SHARK says that County DA’s have refused to allow charges to be filed and SHARK is correct.  However, in Pennsylvania, County DA’s have final say on any charge unless the Attorney General intervenes.  No police officer or Humane Society Police Officer is permitted by law to prosecute a case that has been withdrawn by a County DA.  Not cruelty, drug dealing or murder.  And the DA’s have that control for a reason.  They are supposed to be the protection between us and the abuses of the State, and DA’s are elected so they are accountable to community standards and the vote.  But that doesn’t always mean they are right.  And in this case, they are not.  As a Humane Society Police Officer, I am respectful of their opinion and of their decision, but I respectfully disagree with it.

We now have a Governor-Elect who is a sitting Attorney General.  He is a Republican and backed by the NRA.  He knows the law and I’m sure he knows that the lack of prosecution for something does not mean that something is legal.  It means it may simply have been a crime which went unprosecuted.  People say that only Nixon could go to China.  Perhaps only Tom Corbett can end pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania, as they have been ended across the United States.

It’s not a gun issue.  It’s not a protected activity.  Ending them will no more lead to a revocation of sporting or gun rights than they have anywhere else in the US.  Pigeon shoots are an illegal activity that takes place in only a handful of locales by a small minority, many of whom come from outside Pennsylvania, and should be prosecuted as such.  The Constitution will stand.  These shoots are Pennsylvania’s shame and they are Berks County’s, my organization’s home county’s, shame.

Steve Hindi and SHARK are right.  Governor Rendell and Governor-Elect Corbitt should move to file cruelty charges against those putting on pigeon shoots under existing cruelty law and should take the lead on making shoots explicitly illegal under PA law, just to make it crystal clear for our law enforcement officials.

And then Steve and I can find something else to argue about.

Click here to view the SHARK video.  Please be advised the footage is fairly graphic and there are a couple moments of strong language…

Please contact the Governor and the Governor Elect and ask them to take action.

Governor Edward G. Rendell’s Office

Phone: (717) 787-2500

Fax: (717) 772-8284

EMAIL Governor Rendell

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett



EMAIL Governor-Elect Corbett


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