Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
25 July 1999 Issue

Hegins Pigeon Shoot
From: Michael Markarian, [email protected]


HARRISBURG, Pa. -- In a landmark, unanimous opinion, Chief Justice Flaherty of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has announced that the annual Hegins pigeon shoot is "cruel and moronic," and that the methods by which birds are killed "are contrary to accepted veterinary methods . . . and cause the birds additional pain and suffering." The stunning victory for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) and for animal rights activists, including The Fund for Animals, reverses a lower court's ruling that agents of the PSPCA could not bring a lawsuit to enjoin the annual pigeon shooting contest held every Labor Day in Hegins.

In reversing the lower courts, the Supreme Court explained that the PSPCA was created by the legislature in 1868 "for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the state of Pennsylvania" and must be able to enforce the cruelty to animals law in each county of the state, rather than merely its home county of Philadelphia.

Says Michael Markarian, Executive Vice President of The Fund for Animals, "This decision is a major step in a decade-long campaign to end Pennsylvania's live pigeon shoots, and will have ramifications reaching far beyond Hegins. The days are now clearly numbered for Pennsylvania's cruel and illegal pigeon shoots that take place across the state."

Chief Justice Flaherty's decision also contained a chilling description of the activities that take place at the annual Hegins pigeon shoot. He explained that hundreds of pigeons "suffer a slow and painful death [and] eventually die from their wounds or starvation [while an] additional two thousands or more . . . are not given any sustenance, drink or veterinary care [and] suffer pain until they are eventually killed." He also explained that "trapper boys retrieve the wounded pigeons . . . and kill them by . . . tearing the birds' heads from their bodies, throwing or smashing them against objects on the ground, crushing the birds by falling on them, and suffocating the birds by tossing them into a barrel filled with other dead and dying pigeons."

The PSPCA was represented in the case by Howard Crystal and Katherine Meyer, of the Washington, D.C. public interest law firm Meyer and Glitzenstein. Mr. Crystal, who argued the case before the high court, hailed the decision for "allowing the PSPCA and its agents to do their job by stopping this blatant violation of the state's hundred-year-old animal cruelty code."

A copy of the 11-page decision is available by calling The Fund for Animals at 301-585-2591.

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