Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Pigeon shoots, annually targeted by lawmakers, have little Pa. support, poll finds

A pigeon shoot participant fires at a bird in Schuylkill County. (FILE)
A pigeon shoot participant fires at a bird in Schuylkill County. (FILE)

A statewide poll released Thursday found that the majority of Pennsylvania voters strongly support banning live pigeon shoots, which have been targeted for prohibition the last 26 years but hasn't reached a vote since 1989.

During the shoots, pigeons are captured and trapped in boxes with spring-loaded bottoms. They are then launched from the traps into the air, one at a time, in front of waiting participants who shoot them at close range.

The poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found 75 percent of Pennsylvanians support a law banning pigeon shoots, while just 16 percent oppose the legislation. That majority extended across men, women, Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Pennsylvania is the only state that allows open pigeon shooting.

When asked whether live pigeon shoots were "a tradition that should be preserved" or "an unnecessary form of animal cruelty," 83 percent of respondents agreed with the latter.

“Pennsylvania voters, by wide margins, want their lawmakers to outlaw cruel contests where live pigeons are launched in front of waiting shooters,” Heidi Prescott of the Humane Society of the United States, which commissioned the poll, said in a release. “Pennsylvanians don’t approve of animal cruelty and want their legislators to adopt common-sense policies to protect animals.”

Bills have been reintroduced during every state legislative session in the past 26 years to ban live pigeon shoots, but the legislation hasn't been voted on as a free-standing bill since 1989.  

State Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), along with 22 co-sponsors, this year reintroduced Senate Bill 510 prohibiting the use of live animals or birds as immediately-launched or tethered targets.

"This legislation will protect legitimate hunting activities in the Commonwealth but will also prevent the use of live animals or fowl for purely target practice activities," Browne wrote in a memorandum accompanying the legislation.

More coverage
  • Poultry producer denies cruelty to chicks
  • The bill was Feb. 14 referred to the Judiciary Committee and has not yet been called up for a vote.

    The state Supreme Court in 1999 came close to ruling on the legality of participating in pigeon shoots. But a deal that led to the dissolution of the Hegins Labor Day Pigeon Shoot, held each year in Schuylkill County from 1934 through 1998, between the event's organizers and prosecutors ended the litigation before the court ruled in the case.

    And invitation-only events have continued to be staged at private gun clubs.

    According to the Humane Society, the pigeon shoots often attract out-of-state sportsmen who come from areas where the activity has been banned. The organization also estimates 70 percent of the birds released in shoots are wounded rather than killed, causing some of them to escape and suffer for long periods of time before dying.

    Pigeon shoots are also now the subject of a recently filed lawsuit, according to an Inquirer report earlier this month. The Delaware River Keeper Network is suing the Philadelphia Gun Club, a 132-year-old group, over pigeon shoots on private property along the Delaware River.

    Alex Wigglesworth For Philly.com
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