Restrictions in other cities have caused an increase in the trapping of wild birds in Pittsburgh so they can be sold for pigeon shoots in eastern and central Pennsylvania.
To counter this, Pittsburgh City Council advanced a bill Wednesday that would ban the trapping of wild birds in the city.
Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who introduced the legislation last week, said during the council’s Standing Committee meeting that her office has fielded an increasing number of complaints about pigeons being trapped in the city for shoots at gun clubs in eastern and central Pennsylvania.
“These pigeons are sold to gun clubs, held in inhumane conditions, thrown in the air and shot for sport,” she said.
The ordinance is headed for final approval Tuesday, though likely with some amended language to avoid impeding the city Animal Care and Control Bureau’s ability to trap pigeons if necessary.
Rebecca Reid, a wildlife advocate with Humane Options Pittsburgh, which promotes non-lethal means of dealing with urban wildlife, called the shoots “quite a horrifying spectacle.” She said the trapped birds, sold by “pigeon brokers,” are often crammed into cages and “stockpiled” for days at a time before shoots while exposed to the elements.
Trappers get about $5 per pigeon and have been spotted Downtown and in the Strip District in large vans with cages on top, she said. The shoots themselves can kill thousands of birds depending on how long they last.
Mary Kennedy Withrow, shelter director and director of government affairs for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, said bans on trapping pigeons in New York and Philadelphia have pushed the practice to Pittsburgh.
Attempts to ban pigeon shoots at the state level have failed for more than two decades, said Heidi Prescott, senior vice president of campaigns for the Humane Society of the United States.
“There is an underground trade in pigeons for live pigeon shoots and there have been an increase in complaints of pigeon trapping in both Pittsburgh and New York,” she said. “This ordinance will certainly help stem the flow of pigeons for the shoots.”
Ms. Prescott has been lobbying against pigeon shoots in Harrisburg since 1993 and last year succeeded in getting a bill through the Senate only to have it languish in the house, where Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, then House majority leader and now speaker of the House, blocked it from coming to a vote. It has been introduced again this year.
Most states have either banned pigeon shoots outright or through the interpretation of animal cruelty laws, she noted.
The chief opponent of a pigeon-shoot ban has been the National Rifle Association, which called it “misguided” last year.
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