A TV icon is taking a stand for the pigeons of Pennsylvania.
Bob Barker, the former game show host and one of the nation's most generous animal philanthropists, has donated $1 million to stop pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania and says he will be joining protestors outside a Bensalem gun club where shoots are being held regularly.
Barker said the donation will go to SHARK, an Illinois-based animal activist organization dedicated to putting a stop to these shoots.
The organization plans weekly demonstrations at the Philadelphia Gun Club in Bucks County which two years ago began holding pigeon shoots despite a cease and desist order issued by Bensalem Township. In 2002 the township said the shoots violated local firearms laws and constituted animal cruelty. The club recently filed suit against activists and neighbors for harassment.
Barker also said he will support legislation being considered in both the state House and Senate that would ban the use of live pigeons for targets and make organizing or operating the shoots a crime. Animal rights activists in Pennsylvania have been fighting to win passage of anti-pigeon shoot legislation for two decades.
Pennsylvania is the only state where live pigeon shoots are openly practiced, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The contests - held at gun clubs, most of them in Berks County - involve launching pigeons from spring-loaded boxes where shooters fire on them at close range. Many wounded birds are scooped up - often by children - their necks broken and the carcases disposed of. But other injured birds end up outside of the clubs only to suffer a slow death from their wounds.
“The very characteristics of a live pigeon shoot are such that the event cannot be held without causing extensive animal suffering,” said Barker. “Live bird shoots are held under the guise of ‘sport’ target practice But they offer neither sport nor hunting.”
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that about 22,000 live birds are used as targets every year in Pennsylvania.