Bensalem attorney files complaint against gun club

A Bensalem attorney has filed a complaint against the Philadelphia Gun Club alleging the club violated the township's order banning live pigeon shoots on club property.

Elissa B. Katz in a letter, asked township solicitor Joseph Pizzo to enforce the 2002 cease and desist order. 

Katz said she witnessed club members shooting pigeons at the property along the Delaware River last Saturday and reported it to township police. She said they told her they knew nothing about the cease and desist order despite Pizzo's assurance that the township's Public Safety Director had been informed and would notify all officers that the shoots were illegal.

Heidi Prescott, now senior vice president for campaigns for the Humane Society of the United States, helped convince the township to take action against the shoots when she worked for the now-defunct Fund for Animals. The township issued the cease and desist notice in 2002 after determining that the practice was cruel and violated the township's firearms discharge law. 

Pizzo said at the time the township would "take any and all actions necessary to make them stop the shoots."

On several occasions since late 2008, Prescott, Katz and others have notified local authorities that the shoots were continuing and were assured that "internal measures were taken enforce the ceae and desist order." Numerous attempts to reach Pizzo over the past three months have been unsuccessful.

The Philadelphia Gun Club, which has 61 member today, was founded in 1877. Its Web site describes the club as a "mecca for shooting gentlemen interested in serious competitive shooting in a genteel atmosphere," and chronicles the rich and famous who hunted at the former estate property, including Ernest Hemingway, William K. Vanderbilt Jr. and Annie Oakley. There is no mention that the quarry today is pigeons - hundreds of them - which are trucked in, stuffed in spring-loaded boxes and shot as they are catapulted into the air.

Prescott said the Bensalem situation is evidence that statewide legislation is needed "to address this cruel practice." Bills banning live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania have been introduced each session for the past two decades but have failed to be voted out of committee. Prescott says she plans to lobby for new legislation this spring.

In an interesting historic twist, the New York Times in 1890 reported a Pennsylvania judge found A. Nelson Lewis, a member of the Philadelphia Gun Club, guilty of cruelty to animals for participating in a pigeon shooting match on the grounds of the club three years earlier.