pigeon shoot

Animal rights activists examine a wounded pigeon rescued at a Pennsylvania pigeon shoot in 1996.

Maryland has banned live pigeon shoots, and some animal welfare advocates say that puts pressure on Pennsylvania to do the same.

“Pennsylvania is the only state where it openly and regularly occurs,” said Heidi Prescott, senior vice president of campaigns for the Humane Society.

“The activities at a pigeon shoot are incredibly cruel, from the treatment of the birds ahead of time to the ones who are wounded but get away to die slowly, horribly, over a period of days,” she said. “Kids are sent out to kill the injured ones, usually by snapping their necks or pulling their heads off.

“It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever seen, and my whole life has been devoted to working on animal cruelty.”

The Maryland legislature voted to outlaw live pigeon shoots in April. Gov. Larry Hogan signed the bill into law earlier this week.

“Pennsylvania should follow suit,” Prescott said.

According to information provided by Gillian Kocher, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania SPCA, live pigeon shoots “are inhumane contests where live birds who have been captured ... are shot at close range by shooters who earn points for every bird they shoot.”

About 70 percent of the birds are wounded but not killed outright, according to the release.

Most states disapprove

Most states have banned the practice outright or have said it falls under anti-cruelty laws, Prescott said.

“Every now and then, one will pop up somewhere. Usually we’re able to stop it,” she said. “When one cropped up in California, we got an Attorney General’s opinion that it violated the state’s anti-cruelty laws. The same thing happened in Ohio.”

Prescott said 14 states — including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and now Maryland — have passed laws specifically banning the use of live birds as targets.

Eight states, including New York, have said existing anti-cruelty laws prohibit pigeon shooting. And 22 states have laws that would likely ban pigeon shoots but haven’t been legally tested, she said.

In Pennsylvania, Prescott said, live pigeon shoots aren’t specifically allowed or outlawed. Cruelty laws that could prevent them aren’t enforced, she said.

Senate Bill 612, which would prohibit the “use of live pigeons for targets,” was introduced to the judiciary committee in April 2017, where it remained.

Prescott said a previous version of the Senate bill passed and was sent to the House, where it died without a vote.

Nicole Brunner, spokeswoman for Democratic state Rep. Mike Sturla, said he is “in favor of banning pigeon shoots because of their cruel and inhumane nature.”

Emails on the issue were also sent Wednesday and again Thursday to Republican state Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin, and Republican state Reps. Bryan Cutler, Steven Mentzer, Mindy Fee, Brett Miller, Keith Greiner, David Hickernell and David Zimmerman. None of them responded by the end of the day Thursday.