Efforts to halt organized pigeon shooting in Pennsylvania got a major boost last year when TV icon Bob Barker decided it was a cause worth ponying up $1 million for.
Since then the group that received the money, Illinois-based Showing Animal Respect and Kindness (SHARK), has stepped up their documentation and advocacy work on behalf of thousands of pigeons slaughtered each year in the shoots.
More than a decade after animal activists shut down the infamous Hegins pigeon shoot, efforts to rally support among lawmakers for legislation to ban pigeon shooting in Pennsylvania have not succeeded in the statehouse.
In other action animal cruelty charges have been filed against gun club operators in Dauphin County and Bucks County, where the group is training its cameras on individuals who participate in regular pigeon shoots at the more than century-old Philadelphia Gun Club in Bensalem. Last week a humane officer filed charges against the gun club on behalf of a bird injured in February.
(In a pigeon shoot the birds are stuffed into springloaded boxes, catapulted into the air and shot at short range. Some die instantly, but many more fly off wounded only to die slow deaths beyond the perimeters of the shooting ring.)
The most recent video, the group says, shows Philadelphia Gun Club president Leo Holt - a Gloucester City NJ -based marine terminal operator - picking up wounded birds, some out of the mouths of dogs and swinging them like dish rags in circle ostensibly to break their necks.
Here's how SHARK described it in a press release:
While the act of pigeon shooting in itself is abhorrent, it was what SHARK videotaped Leo Holt doing after one pigeon shoot at the Club that is so beyond the pale, so completely vicious, that if we had not captured it on videotape, it would be considered unbelievable.
In the video, Holt is seen just beyond the fenced border of the Gun Club, picking up wounded and crippled birds. Holt grabs a number of birds with his bare hands and swings them by their neck - an attempt to break it and kill them. But it all goes horribly wrong, for the birds survive this torture nearly every time he tries it. In one case, he seems to be so frustrated by his lack of ability to kill one bird by snapping her neck that it appears he crushes her head in his hands.
There are also two dogs with Holt, each of whom lashes out at still living birds, creating a macabre scene of animal upon animal violence with the birds, already suffering from shotgun wounds, desperately flapping their wings futilely as they are being torn apart.
“We’ve documented many pigeon shoots,” states Steve Hindi, President of SHARK, “but this stands out as being one of the most heinous and revolting acts we have seen. Holt’s incompetence in trying to kill the birds by breaking their necks only causes more horrifying suffering, and that he allows his dogs to treat these beautiful, living animals as if they were toys is just completely unconscionable.”
The group said it will pursue animal cruelty charges against Holt for the "extraordinary cruelty" he inflicted upon the birds.
SHARK members plan to attend an Independence Day event in Gloucester City this weekend. They said Holt's company is sponsoring the fireworks at the Gloucester City Jr-Sr High School on Market St. on July 3 at 7 p.m.