Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pennsylvania -- the last state left

Cruel & unusual: Stop turning pigeons into sitting ducks

In an attempt to broaden perspectives on and coverage of statewide issues that concern our readers, we'll be occasionally running editorials from papers around the commonwealth. Today's editorial first appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

PENNSYLVANIA is only state left in the nation allowing live pigeon shoots.

Opponents who have tried for decades to ban pigeon shoots are now are asking legislators to ban two particularly appalling practices: Launching and tethering.

Pigeons are put into mechanical launches and placed about 30 yards away from shooters. The birds are propelled and shot while they are still in the air. In another type of contest, they are tethered in place and shot.

The mechanical launch and tethering at bird shoots continue to be an embarrassment to our commonwealth. Other states have wisely banned the contests, leaving us with the lone reputation of enabling them. In fact, many of the people who participate at pigeon shoots come from other states.

Fortunately many pigeon shoots - Hegins comes to mind - have ended because of court rulings or organizers' bowing to public opposition. But many persist and the mechanical launch has become a popular and cruel tool for the shoots. The Humane Society of the United States says that typically 10 percent of birds manage to escape, 20 percent are killed outright and 70 percent are wounded and later die.

Some pigeon-shoot supporters have tried to tie the practice to hunting. But real hunters know shooting a bird from a launch or one that is tethered isn't real hunting.

Bills have been introduced in the House by Reps. Eugene DePasquale (D-York) and John Maher (R-Allegheny) and in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh). The legislation would ban shoots in which captive birds are tethered or launched in front of the shooter. And the bills specifically say they can't be used to restrict traditional hunting regulated by the state Game Commission.

More than 22,000 birds are used as targets every year in the state for these shoots.

Pigeons aren't puppies. Putting the face of the birds on a poster might not stir the same emotions in people as did the sad-eyed dogs displayed last year during the successful fight against puppy mills.

But people should be no less outraged and the outcome should be the same. Legislators should end this cruel practice. *

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