Pigeon shoots are not illegal in Pennsylvania, but animal cruelty is. Stuart Chaifetz, an investigator for SHARK, weighs in on controversy of shooting pigeons for sport.
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Pigeon shoots are technically legal in the state of Pennsylvania, but cruelty toward pigeons is not. Two gun clubs in two Pennsylvania counties hold pigeon shoots, aiming their guns inside of a loophole based on an 1891 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that overturned the animal cruelty conviction of a participant in a live pigeon shoot.
In the brief written about the decision, the Court said that, "... were there anything in the finding of the jury to show that the object of this association was to torture pigeons we would not hesitate to sustain the judgment of the court below.”
Though pigeon shoots aren’t being prosecuted, they do violate Pennsylvania’s anti-cruelty statute, 5511. This is because the gun clubs routinely starve pigeons and fail to provide them with water for several days prior to the shoot, so that they will be easier targets. Once hit and injured, most of the pigeons are abandoned and left to suffer before they die.
Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, otherwise known as SHARK, investigates and campaigns against pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania, among other animal-related acts of cruelty. SHARK believes that the pigeon shoots are still legal because of the close ties some politicians may have to the gun clubs.
Stuart Chaifetz, an investigator for SHARK from Cherry Hill, N.J., weighs in on shooting pigeons for sport.
1) Is anything being done to try to stop the pigeon shoots?
SHARK is fighting hard against pigeon shoots in PA, and we are fighting on every front. We are on the ground at pigeon shoots, documenting cruelty and rescuing wounded pigeons. We have fought in the courts, in the media, and in the legislature. We’ve shown the absolute horrors of pigeon shooting with our videos from the killing fields and those who commit that violence by releasing the names of pigeon shooters. In every way, SHARK is working to end pigeon shoots once and for all.
2) When did SHARK get involved with this cause and why?
SHARK has been fighting pigeon shoots since the early 1990’s, when the annual Labor Day shoots were a major issue. When we discovered that pigeon shoots were happening in Illinois, we took immediate action and we won—pigeon shoots were shut down for good. The lesson is that we can win these battles, but there has to be a strong group of local people willing to help. Unless PA residents and groups are going to stand up, the battle to shut down shoots will be infinitely harder to win.
3) What do you personally like about pigeons? Why are they special? What has made this particular issue personal for you?
It’s not that pigeons as a species are special, but that every animal is special. They are all unique beings who deserve our protection.
Anyone who thinks negatively about pigeons needs to watch our videos and see the birds that we’ve rescued. Look into the eyes of a wounded bird as they rest in our arms, or the baby pigeon who had his head cut with a knife before being shot and you’ll see why this is such an important issue.
Pigeons have also saved human lives. In World War I, a homing pigeon named Cher Ami is credited with saving an army battalion during the Battle of Argonne.