2011-04-21 / Local & State

Senate Bill To Ban Animal Shoots In Pa. Advances

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) – Animal welfare advocates are celebrating a state Senate committee vote on a measure that would outlaw pigeon shoots and other target shoots with live animals, which they say is the first such vote on the issue in almost a dozen years.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-3 in favor of the measure, which prohibits “use of live animals or fowl for targets at trap shoot or block shoot” gatherings. Anyone who organizes, operates or conducts such an activity would be guilty of a summary offense under the state’s animal cruelty statute. The measure now heads to the full Senate.

“I’m elated,” said Heidi Prescott, senior vice president of campaigns for the Humane Society of the United States, which says it’s the first time such a bill has been voted on in the commonwealth in 11 years. She said she isn’t sure why such measures have stalled for so long, given how much opposition there is to pigeon shooting among the general public.

“They see it as cruelty, like dog-fighting or cockfighting,’’ she said. “It’s a horrifying practice.’’

If the bill becomes law, Prescott said she expects Pennsylvania pigeon shoots to become obsolete, because they take place in the open. Unlike cockfighting, for example, pigeon shoots can’t occur behind closed doors, she said.

A 1999 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision ruled that cruelty officers could bring charges against pigeon-shoot participants, which led to the end of the Hegins Labor Day Pigeon Shoot in Schuylkill County, Prescott said.

“But that was not enough to shut them (all) down,’’ she said. Pigeon shoots still took place at private clubs in Berks, Dauphin and Bucks counties.

“Pennsylvania is the only state where live pigeon shoots are openly staged,’’ Prescott said.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action released a statement after the vote calling bird shooting a “historic and legitimate activity steeped in tradition with many participants throughout the commonwealth and around the world.”

“ For over a century, shoots have been held in Pennsylvania by law-abiding, ethical shooting enthusiasts, hunters, and sportsmen who would not tolerate an activity that would constitute cruelty to animals,” the statement said. The group said the efforts to ban the practice are not merely about bird shooting but about “banning all hunting species by species.’’

Several state senators told the Lancaster Sunday News that they will be studying the measure and talking to constituents before deciding whether to give it their

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