The Politics of Animal Cruelty

by Walter Brasch

Pennsylvanians can still butcher, braise, and broil their pet cats and dogs because a murky mixture of politics has left a critical bill on the table in the state senate.

Residents may also continue to use cats, dogs, and other animals as targets for what some erroneously call “sporting events.”

Although there are no documented cases of cats and dogs being thrown into the air at these shoots, there is a long history in Pennsylvania of pigeon shoots. Pennsylvania is the only state where such shoots occur legally. The remaining shoots are in the southeastern part of the state, in Berks and Bucks counties near Philadelphia. However, this past week, an undercover investigator for SHARK, an animal rights group, documented a pigeon shoot in Oklahoma to provide campaign funds for Sen. James Inhofe (R). About 1,000 pigeons, according to SHARK, were thrown into the air a few yards from the shooters.

In Pennsylvania, scared and undernourished birds are placed into cages, and then launched about 30 yards in front of people with 12-gauge shotguns. Most birds, as many as 5,000 at an all-day shoot, are hit standing on their cages, on the ground, or flying erratically just a few feet from the people who pretend to be sportsmen. About 70 percent of all birds are wounded, according to Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who for 25 years has been documenting and leading the effort to pass legislation to end pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania. If the birds are wounded on the killing fields, trapper boys and girls, most in their early teens, some of them younger, grab the birds, wring their necks, stomp on their bodies, or throw them live into barrels to suffocate. Birds that fall outside the shooting club’s property are left to die long and horrible deaths. There is no food or commercial value of a pigeon killed at one of the shoots.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Game Commission says pigeon shoots are not “fair chase hunting.” The International Olympic Committee declared pigeon shoots aren’t a sport, and banned it after the 1900 Olympics because of its cruelty to animals.

But, the Pennsylvania Senate still hasn’t taken HB1750 off the table for discussion. Any senator may request the Senate to suspend the rules to allow a bill come off the table; none have.

The House passed the original bill, sponsored by Rep. John Maher (R), 201-0, in November 2013.

It was amended in the Senate, with Maher’s approval, to ban pigeon shoots under Title 18, which includes animal cruelty statutes.  Although butchering and selling cats and dogs would be a first degree misdemeanor, carrying a fine of $1,000-$10,000 and a maximum prison term of five years, pigeon shoot violations would be only a summary offense, carrying a maximum $300 fine and/or three months jail sentence, and only for those operating the shoot. That bill was approved in the Republican-led Judiciary Committee, 10-4, on June 26. In the next two days, it passed two of the required three readings in the full Senate, but was tabled, July 8, when the Senate recessed for more than two months. The bill was not placed on the voting calendar when the Senate reconvened for five days between Sept. 15 and Sept. 24. The Senate is again in recess and will reconvene for two to four days, beginning Oct. 6 before going on recess until after the Nov. 4 election.

One of the four who voted against the bill in the judiciary committee was Joseph B. Scarnati III (R), the Senate president pro tempore. In his past two elections, Scranati received $5,275 from the NRA PAC, and $1,000 from the Flyers Victory Fund; the Victory Fund was established to support pigeon shoots. However, Scarnati didn’t influence if the bill was to be voted upon by the full Senate, says Kate Eckhart, Scarnati’s communications and legislative affairs assistant. The senator who does influence what bills go on the calendar is Dominic Pileggi (R), the majority leader. Pileggi had voted for the bill when it was in Judiciary Committee. However, Pileggi doesn’t put a bill on the calendar until the Republican caucus discusses it.

Republican caucus leader is Sen. John Gordner (R), who also voted against the bill in committee. However, Gorder says he voted against the bill on procedural grounds. The amendment, says Todd Roup, Gordner’s chief of staff, “was slipped onto the committee’s calendar at the last minute without required notice.”

Gregg Warner, the Judiciary Committee’s legal counsel, disagrees. “We notify members of the committee what bills will be on the agenda on Thursdays or Fridays the week before [a Tuesday meeting],” says Warner, “and then distribute summaries of the bills a day before.” Amendments are often distributed on Mondays before scheduled Tuesday meetings.

“Once there is enough support in the caucus,” says Roup, the bill will go back to Pileggi. The person responsible for counting votes is Sen. Patrick Browne, Republican minority whip. Because caucus discussions are secret, neither Browne nor Gordner will reveal if the bill was discussed. Gordner, however, will vote for the bill if it gets to the floor for a third reading, says Roup.

Josh Funk, deputy general counsel of the Senate Republican caucus, says there are two tests as to whether a bill is placed onto the calendar to be voted upon by the full Senate. The first test is if a majority in the caucus wants it. The second test, says Funk, is that, “It is not Sen. Pileggi’s policy to put bills up for a vote if the end result will be that they fail to receive 26 votes,” a Senate majority.” However, in the final two days before the Senate recessed this past week, Pileggi did place two bills onto the calendar that failed, by wide margins, to get 26 votes. Nevertheless, a policy that severely restricts open debate, with most discussions and decisions made in secret, significantly reduces the rights of the public to learn how their elected representatives think about a particular issue; the policy could violate Section 702 of the state’s Sunshine Act that declares, “The General Assembly finds that the right  of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decision making of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process and that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public’s effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society.”

Although there may not be enough votes in the Republican caucus, there are more than enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate. In addition to 24 co-sponsors, an informal tally shows at least a half-dozen other senators will support the bill.

This is also bill the public supports. A statewide survey by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research a year ago revealed not only do more than three-fourths of all Pennsylvanians want to see legislation to ban live pigeon shoots, only 16 percent of Pennsylvanians oppose such a ban. More than four-fifths of all Pennsylvanians say live pigeon shoots are animal cruelty. The bill is supported by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, the ASPCA, and the Pennsylvania Federation of Humane Societies. Most Pennsylvania newspapers have editorialized against pigeon shoots.

So, why wasn’t the bill brought up for a third reading before the Senate adjourned in July? And why is it still on the table?

The answer is enmeshed in a web of politics. Fearing an NRA backlash, and perhaps not wishing to alienate any voters less than six weeks before an election, the Senate may have stalled the vote because of an intense lobbying effort by the NRA. On the day before the Judiciary Committee was scheduled to hear the bill for the first time, the Institute for Legislative Action, NRA’s lobbying arm, sent urgent alerts to Pennsylvania members and the legislature. The NRA leadership opposes bans on pigeon shoots, believing that to ban animal cruelty is the “slippery slope” to banning guns.

“That’s completely nonsense,” says Roy Afflerbach, a lifelong hunter, and former state senator and Allentown mayor.

Many in the Legislature cower in fear at receiving less than an “A+” rating from the NRA. In the Senate Judiciary committee, Sen. Richard Alloway (R), a long-time hunter and a vigorous gun-rights advocate, called pigeon shooting a “blood sport.” After an attack by the NRA, he said, “I find it laughable that my friends [at the NRA] would somehow label me anti-Second Amendment.” Sen. Daylin Leach (D), vice-chair of the judiciary committee, doesn’t worry about the NRA rating. “Pigeon shoots, says Leach, “are a barbaric relic of a long-ago past. Hunters are ashamed of it, and it’s time to stop the gratuitous cruelty that pigeon shoots represent.”

The NRA alert called pigeon shooters “law-abiding, ethical shooting enthusiasts.” However, undercover investigators have observed a large part of the lure of pigeon shoots is illegal gambling on how many birds each shooter will wound or kill. The alert also told legislators that opposition “does not come from within the Commonwealth, but from the outside,” targeting the Humane Society of the United States as the leader of the “animal ‘rights’ extremist groups.” However, the NRA is as much an “outside organization as HSUS; its headquarters is in Fairfax, Va.. Both NRA and HSUS have Pennsylvania field offices. All Pennsylvania humane organizations support HB1750. Humane PA PAC, which opposes the pigeon shoot, has 32,000 members, most of them Pennsylvanians.

There is another political land mine for the bill. Even if the Senate passes the bill, the House of Representatives, which had passed the bill without the pigeon shoot amendment, is a far more conservative body, and could likely hold up passage of the bill.

The last free-standing vote in the House occurred in 1994. Although the vote was 99-93 to ban the shoots, a majority of 102 votes was required. Later bills were scuttled, usually by leadership of both political parties.

Four years after the House failed to pass legislation to ban pigeon shoots, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Hegins Pigeon Shoot, held on public property, was not only cruel “but moronic.” The organizers grudgingly disbanded the annual Labor Day event, held from 1934 to 1998. The Court’s opinion did not extend to shoots at private clubs, all of which draw many of the participants and spectators from New Jersey, and are held in secret.

“The tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians who have contacted their legislators, year after year, for decades, deserve a vote,” says Heidi Prescott. If the bill is brought to a vote, “it will pass,” she says.

[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist, has been covering Pennsylvania pigeon shoots for more than 20 years. He is a former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, and the author of 20 books. His current book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the politics and economics behind fracking, and its impact on health, agriculture, and the environment. The book also investigates fracking’s effects upon animals.]

 

Pennsylvanians Support Pigeon Shoot Ban

by Walter Brasch

Three-fourths of all Pennsylvanians want to see an end to live pigeon shoots.

A statewide survey by the Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Company reveals not only do 75 percent of Pennsylvanians want to see legislation to ban live pigeon shoots but only 16 percent of Pennsylvanians oppose such a ban.

Here’s another figure from that independent survey. Eighty-three percent-that’s more than four of every five Pennsylvanians-say live pigeon shoots are an unnecessary form of animal cruelty.

Here’s why.

Organizers of this blood sport place the birds into cages, and place people with shotguns only about 20 yards away. The spring-loaded cages open, and the pretend hunters open fire. The pigeons, many of them stunned, often having been nearly starved, are then blown apart.

But first they suffer. More than 70 percent of all birds are wounded, according to data compiled by the Humane Society of the United States. If they fall onto the shooting range, teenagers take the birds, wring their necks or use scissors to cut their heads off, and stuff them into barrels. Even if the birds survive strangulation, they will die from their wounds and from suffocation. If the wounded birds manage to fly outside the shooting range, most will die a lingering and painful death. The juveniles-disguised-as-adults consider the birds litter, and don’t pick them up if they fall outside the shooting range.

Most hunters agree live pigeon shoots is cruelty. Most hunters rightfully say this is not fair

chase hunting. Most hunters want to see this practice come to an end. And they have every right to want this to happen-pigeon shoots make a mockery of everything legitimate hunting stands for, and gives anti-hunting activists a huge target.

None of the birds can be used for food. Nor is there any way to make fur coats from their feathers.

Pennsylvania’s trap and skeet shoots attract many of the best shooters from around the country, and are a justifiably family-friendly sport. In contrast, pigeon shoots attract an assortment of barely-mediocre shooters, most of whom mix shooting and drinking, and openly violate the state’s gambling laws. Ted Nugent, who justifiably lives up to his “Motor City Madman” label, actively promotes pigeon shoots.

More than a century ago, the International Olympic Committee banned pigeon shooting as cruel, and declared it wasn’t a sport. Almost no country allows pigeon shoots. Pennsylvania is the only state that officially condones this practice.

So, if three-fourths of all Pennsylvanians want to see a ban on pigeon shoots, who doesn’t?

The Pennsylvania legislature doesn’t. In almost three decades, the leaders have blocked almost every attempt to put legislation up for a vote. The last time there was a free-standing bill was in 1989.

And why has Pennsylvania’s often-dysfunctional legislature not followed the will of the people and banned this cruelty?

It’s an easy answer. Politicians are ruled not by the people who elect them but by who spreads money and fear onto their souls. In this case, the NRA executives-not the membership, almost all of whom believe in fair chase hunting, but the executives-don’t want to see the end of pigeon shooting. They stupidly and wrongly claim that banning pigeon shooting violates the Second Amendment. They stupidly and wrongly claim that banning pigeon slaughter is a slippery slope to the overthrow of gun rights.

Pennsylvania’s part-time legislators who receive full-time pay buy into this because they have been bought by the NRA-and they are afraid if they get even a grade of “B” from the NRA it might affect their chances of re-election.

This legislative session, Sen. Pat Browne (R-Allentown), the Senate’s majority whip, sponsored a bill (SB 510) to ban pigeon shoots. He has 22 co-sponsors; among them are Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Glen Mills, Pa.), the majority leader; Sen. Jay Costa (D-Pittsburgh), the minority floor leader; and Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia), the minority caucus chair. Browne also has the support of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, the ASPCA, and the Pennsylvania Federation of Humane Societies.

Even if the Senate passes the bill, the vote in the House will be contentious-its leaders have been the primary blocks to keep the bill from a vote.

If our Jello-spined legislators will look at the will of the people, they will stand up to the NRA executives, vote for Sen. Browne’s bill to ban pigeon shoots, and bring Pennsylvania into line with all other states that can make a distinction between Second Amendment rights and animal cruelty.

[Walter Brasch, an award-winning journalist, for more than two decades has been covering the controversy surrounding pigeon shoots. Dr. Brasch is also the author of 18 books; his latest is Fracking Pennsylvania, which explores the financial and political connections between state politicians and the gas and oil industry.]

           

Olympians Medal in London, While the NRA Meddles in Harrisburg

by WALTER BRASCH

Shortly before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on an amendment last December that would ban pigeon shoots, the Pennsylvania Flyers Association sent out a bulletin it marked as “urgent.”

“We must act now to preserve our sport,” the Flyers screeched. In a separate letter, the Flyers told its members they “should be very proud that your association has been able to keep the sport alive in PA [sic] for the last 27 years.” For added support, the notice referred to an NRA release, which called pigeon shooting a “Pennsylvania Sporting Tradition.”

Shooting live pigeons in a confined area isn’t a sport. Most hunters, as well as the Pennsylvania Game Commission, say that pigeon shoots aren’t “fair chase hunting.” The International Olympic Committee banned pigeon shoots after the 1900 Olympics because of its cruelty to animals, and continues to refuse to classify it as a “sport.” At that Olympics, the only time someone could earn a medal for cruelty, 300 birds were killed.

While 11,000 athletes from 205 countries continue to excel at the Olympics in London, 75 pretend hunters and faux sportsmen are at the Wing Pointe club near Hamburg, Pa., this weekend where they are shooting more than 10 times the number of pigeons killed at the 1900 Olympics.

Scared and undernourished, the birds are placed into small traps and then released 30 yards in front of people with shotguns. Most birds are hit as they are launched. Even standing only feet from their kill, the shooters aren’t as good as they think they are. About 70 percent of all birds are wounded, according to Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States.

If the birds are wounded on the killing fields, trapper boys and girls, most in their early teens, some of them younger, grab the birds, wring their necks, snip their heads off with shears, stomp on their bodies, or throw them live into barrels to suffocate. At Wing Pointe, birds are just thrown into a heap, with wounded birds left to die from suffocation. There is no food or commercial value of a pigeon killed at one of the shoots.

The lure of pigeon shoots in addition to what the participants must think is a wanton sense of fulfillment is gambling, illegal under Pennsylvania law but not enforced by the Pennsylvania State Police. At Wing Pointe, each shooter pays a $290 entry fee. According to the rules, each shooter “must play $200.00 anywhere.” Pigeon shooters and the public can gamble more than that, with the club taking a percentage of the “official” bets. A high stakes, invitation-only poker game adds to the opportunity to lose more than a month’s house mortgage.

Wing Pointe earns even more from its pro shop and from shooters and their guests who stay at its luxury suites it claims is “the perfect retreat after you have spent the day enjoying our Sports Shooting playground.”

The failure to ban pigeon shoots leaves Pennsylvania as the only state where pretend hunters, most of them from New Jersey and surrounding states where pigeon shoots are illegal, can openly shoot pigeons which have just been released from the traps. The NRA claims pigeon shoots are legal in 35 states; however, because those states enforce animal cruelty laws, Pennsylvania is one of the only states that has openly held pigeon shoots. Pigeon shoots are held in southeastern Pennsylvania in Berks County at Wing Pointe, after the Strausstown Gun Club and the Pikeville Gun Club discontinued them; in Bucks County at the Philadelphia Gun Club, Bensalem; in Dauphin County at the Erdman Shoot; and in Northumberland County at a relatively unorganized Berm Gun Club, near Dalmatia. The notorious Hegins Pigeon Shoot, in which more than 5,000 birds were killed or injured every Labor Day weekend, was finally cancelled in 1999 after the state Supreme Court ruled that humane society police officers could arrest participants for committing acts of animal cruelty.

District Attorneys John Adams (Berks) and David Heckler (Bucks) have both refused to prosecute persons accused of cruelty by a Humane Society police officer. Johnna Seeton has filed charges of cruelty to animals in both counties and in all cases the DAs withdrew her charges. A mandamus case is pending against Adams to require him to comply with the law; in 2010, Adams took $500 in campaign donations from the NRA Political Victory Fund. An ethics complaint has been filed against Heckler.

Almost every daily newspaper in the state and dozens of organizations, from the Council of Churches to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, oppose this form of animal cruelty. But Pennsylvania legislators refuse to ban pigeon shoots, fearful of losing NRA campaign funds, the coveted A+ rating, and what could be a vicious attack upon their re-election bids. Even a grade of “B” by the NRA causes some legislators to cower in fear.

The unrelenting NRA message irrationally claims that banning pigeon shoots is the first step to banning guns and, thus, destroying the 2nd Amendment. To those scared by fear-mongers in the NRA and the Pennsylvania Flyers, that was bred solely to support pigeon shoots, the Humane Society-which the NRA calls “radical” and “extremist,” and the Flyers calls “animalist zealots”-carefully explains that absolutely nothing in proposed bills or amendments restricts firearms ownership or usage. However, a paranoid NRA leadership claims banning pigeon shoots would be the “slippery slope” to gun restrictions.

The NRA, says Prescott, misrepresents its members, “most of whom do not support or condone pigeon shoots.”

Pennsylvania allows lobbyists to call legislators off the floor to discuss legislation. NRA lobbyists and their PACs have been vigorous in “explaining” the consequences of a legislator who opposes the NRA philosophy-and in backing it up with campaign contributions. During the 2010 election year, the NRA Political Victory Fund donated $4,500 in direct contributions and $389,696.85 in in-kind contributions to Republican Tom Corbett, who would be elected governor.

But the NRA and its allies are now on the defensive, after taking hits by the public for their unyielding stand in support of the right of owning assault weapons with 100-round magazines, for which no hunter or target shooter has any need. Somehow, in a collective mind with scrambled brain cells, the NRA leadership is unable to distinguish between legitimate hunting and animal cruelty.

In Pennsylvania, the NRA is making a stand. Associating with just about the friendliest state for what it claims is “gun rights,” the NRA has dug in; it knows that if the state bans pigeon shoots, NRA influence will diminish. And so, it continues to pump out fear-mongering press releases, lobbies hard, and freely spreads what is known as the “mother’s milk of politics,” all to a group of legislators too afraid to oppose what they think is NRA strength.

This week, we see two conflicting scenes.

There are no cowards in the Olympics.

But there sure are enough in Wing Pointe and the Pennsylvania legislature.

[For the past 25 years, Walter Brasch has been covering pigeon shoots and the campaign to ban them as an inhumane practice. Dr. Brasch was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Pennsylvania Press Club. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed social issues novel, Before the First Snow, that discusses animal rights, ant-war, the base for the anti-fracking protests, and other issues.]

           

Pennsylvania Politics Continues to Override Humane Actions

by WALTER BRASCH

A national animal welfare organization has filed an ethics complaint against a Pennsylvania district attorney.

SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) charges Bucks County DA David Heckler with conflict-of-interest, favoritism, and failure to fulfill his professional responsibilities. The ethics charges were filed with the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

SHARK, an Illinois-based charity, has been more active in Pennsylvania following a $1 million donation by Bob Barker to stop pigeon shoots. Pennsylvania is the only state that has open and regularly occurring pigeon shoots.

The conflict-of-interest charges date from 2010 when Heckler refused to allow Johnna Seeton, a humane officer, to have an attorney and then blocked her from filing summary citations of animal cruelty against the Philadelphia Gun Club of Bensalem, Pa. “I showed him the evidence, and that’s the last I heard from him,” says Seeton. But it wasn’t the last of the case. “The next thing I know is that I read in the paper that Mr. Heckler had brokered a deal with the gun club,” she says. That deal was for the club to pay court costs and make a $200 donation to the Bucks County SPCA. Seeton was never consulted. Heckler, however, prior to working out a deal had gone to the media to denounce Seeton’s citations as nothing more than “hot air.”

The deal was worked out with Sean Corr, attorney for the PGC. Corr, says Steve Hindi of SHARK, “was one of the biggest individual donors to the Bucks County Republican Committee [which had] heavily funded Heckler’s election campaign.” Heckler had been a state representative and senator and then a judge of the Bucks County Common Pleas Court. Corr, who was shooting pigeons at the PGC in December 2009, was convicted of harassment for shoving a camera into Hindi’s face; Hindi was not on PGC property at the time of the incident, according to the Doylestown Intelligencer. Corr is currently a part-time solicitor for the county.

On April 30 of this year, Seeton filed five summary citations of animal cruelty against the PGC for violations during pigeon shoots on March 17 and 31. State law gives DAs the discretion to deny the presence of attorneys for plaintiffs. However, Heckler’s actions are the only time any DA denied Seeton, a humane officer since 1998, the right to have an attorney. Seeton says that a private attorney representing the Pennsylvania Legislature Animal Network (PLAN) would incur no public costs. As was the case in 2010, Heckler refused to tell Seeton the reason for his denial of legal representation.

“There is a reasonableness standard that a DA in denying attorney representation will have a bona fide reason to do so,” says Elissa Katz, an attorney and president of Humane PA PAC, “but in this case there appears to be no reasonable basis for denying representation.” The PGC, however, could be represented by an attorney in the court of District Magistrate Leonard Brown. Heckler’s action “places the parties on an unfair playing field from the beginning,” says Katz.

Heckler numerous times stated that although he isn’t a pigeon shooter, he is reluctant to pursue charges against pigeon shooting because it isn’t a crime in Pennsylvania. Tom Logan, a Bucks County assistant district attorney, says the reason the DA’s office is denying Seeton legal representation is because “a review of the law [indicates] it is not a crime. If it’s not a crime, we don’t want to turn it into a crime.”

However in Bensalem Twp., where the PGC is located, pigeon shooting is illegal. In May 2002, the township determined that “live pigeon shoots do, in fact, violate the Pennsylvania Animal Cruelty Statue . . . as well as Township Ordinance No. 71,” and issued a cease and desist order. The PGC briefly suspended the shoots. Karel Minor, executive director of the Humane Society of Berks County, says pigeon shoots, contrary to public perception and political gesturing, are already illegal. The shoots, says Minor, aren’t protected “under any statute, law or code.” Further, he says, “Because they aren’t exempt from animal cruelty law, they are subject to them by definition.”

However, the problem is enforcement. “As long as DAs aren’t allowing humane society police officers to enforce existing law, the legislature is going to have to stop avoiding the issue and clarify that this practice is illegal,” says Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Leaders of the state legislature, cowered by a heavy NRA lobbying campaign that irrationally equates an end of the cruelty of pigeon shooting with a violation of Second Amendment rights, have numerous times blocked legislation from a full vote. The only time the bill was voted on as a free-standing bill was in the 1980s. Several attempts to amend it have been made over the past 20 years, the closest vote taking place in 1994, when the House voted 99-93 in favor of an amendment to ban pigeon shoots, but fell short of the 102 votes needed for passage.

Most of the 20-25 pigeon shoots are in suburban Philadelphia, specifically Bucks and Berks counties, with a combined population of more than one million. Individual shoots are also held in Dauphin and Northumberland counties. The Hegins pigeon shoot in Schuylkill County was finally cancelled in 2000 after the state Supreme Court ruled that animal cruelty charges could be filed against the organizers. That shoot, begun in 1935, had attracted national attention during its last 12 years when animal rights protestors tried to rescue wounded birds and used several tactics as they confronted shooters and their supporters, including large numbers of skinheads and fringe groups from the extreme right.

Pigeon shoot organizers put as many as 5,000 birds, often scared and undernourished, into small cages and then release them about 30 yards in front of pretend-hunters with 12-gauge shotguns. Most of the birds are hit by the shot within five to 10 feet of the cages, with many shot while standing on the ground. About three-fourths of all birds are wounded, not killed outright, says Prescott. If shot within the gun club’s property, trapper boys, often in their teens will take the birds, wring their necks, snip their heads off, or stuff them alive into barrels to suffocate. If the birds survive long enough to fly outside the gun club’s property, most will die lingering and painful deaths; at the PGC, many will fall into the Delaware River and slowly drown as they struggle to swim to shore, says Prescott.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission doesn’t call pigeon shoots a sport nor does the International Olympic Committee, which banned it after the 1900 Olympics. Most hunters and sportsmen oppose pigeon shoots because they aren’t considered to be fair chase hunting.

SHARK also claims Heckler repeatedly refused to file charges against the PGC for actions that specifically violate Pennsylvania law. It claims Heckler refused to file charges against PGC members for deliberately firing shotgun shells at protesters in boats on the Delaware River. The PGC had initially filed requests with the Coast Guard to establish temporary exclusion zones on the river during pigeon shoots, but withdrew the requests. SHARK believes the reason is because the PGC didn’t wish to file an environmental impact statement that would reveal more than a century of shotgun shells and dead pigeons polluting the river.

The SHARK petition also claims that in two separate incidents PGC members recklessly drove their vehicles at female protestors. Both actions were captured on videotape. In one case, the local police and the DA’s office refused to press charges. In the second incident, a PGC member who is an attorney yelled sexist obscenities at a Marianne Bessey, an animal rights activist, “as he recklessly drove his SUV past her.” Later, in media interviews, the PGC member acknowledged his actions. However, when Bessey, an attorney, tried to file a private complaint for disorderly conduct and harassment, Heckler denied it. Bessey says Heckler claimed there was “insufficient evidence” and that her complaint lacked “prosecutorial merit.”

Heckler also refused to file charges against an individual who, SHARK claims, assaulted Hindi and brandished a pistol, threatening him for protesting. According to the petition, Robert Olsen, operations manager of Carlton Pools, owned by Joseph Solana who holds live pigeon shoots on his property, twice drove his SUV directly at a vehicle driven by Hindi on the company’s parking lot. The third time, according to the petition, on a public street, Olsen “grabbed at and assaulted” SHARK investigator Janet Enoch. When Hindi tried to intervene, Olsen pointed a loaded pistol at Hindi, swore at him, and ordered him to “get down on the ground,” according to the complaint. Although the assault was videotaped, Heckler filed only two charges-reckless driving and fighting. In contrast, according to SHARK, Heckler prosecuted a resident who “pulled a handgun on a snow plow operator who had just buried his car in the snow.” That charge led to a three month jail term.

Pigeon shoots, like cockfighting and dog fighting, “are contests scored by hurting and killing live animals while gambling on the outcome, representing the worst of humanity,” says Prescott.  

Although Pennsylvania legislators, police, and DAs may publically say how much they detest animal cruelty, they have shown their cowardice to do what is right by their failure to prosecute cruelty charges against pigeon shoots.

[Walter Brasch, an award-winning syndicated columnist, has shot at many clay pigeons but never at a live pigeon. He attended his first pigeon shoot as a reporter more than 20 years ago, and has been writing about the cruelty of pigeons shoots since then. He is the author of 17 books; his latest is the critically-acclaimed novel Before the First Snow.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D.

Latest Book: Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution

(www.greeleyandstone.com)

www.walterbrasch.com

www.walterbrasch.blogspot.com

www.facebook.com/walterbrasch

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

Pennsylvania Legislators Shoot Down Pigeons-Again

by Walter Brasch

If the first year gross anatomy class at the Penn State Hershey medical school needs spare body parts to study, they can visit the cloak room of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. That’s where most of the legislators left their spines.

The House voted 124-69, Dec. 13, to send an animal welfare bill back to committee, in this case the Gaming Oversight Committee. The bill, SB 71, would have banned simulcasting of greyhound races from other states. Pennsylvania had banned greyhound racing in 2004. Among several of the current bill’s amendments were ones that would also have banned the sale of cat and dog meat, increased penalties for releasing exotic animals, and stopped the cruelty of live pigeon shoots.

It’s the pigeon shoot amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), that caused legislators to hide beneath their desks, apparently in fear of the poop from the NRA, which lobbied extensively against ending pigeon shoots. The unrelenting NRA message irrationally claimed that banning pigeon shoots is the first step to banning guns. The NRA even called the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) a radical animal rights group.

The House action leaves Pennsylvania as the only state where pretend hunters, most of them from New Jersey and surrounding states where pigeon shoots are illegal, to come to Pennsylvania and kill caged birds launched in front of spectators and the shooters.

Most pigeon shoots are held in Berks County in southeastern Pennsylvania, with one in the nearby suburban Philadelphia area. Scared and undernourished birds are placed into small cages, and then released about 20 yards in front of people with 12-gauge shotguns. Most birds, as many as 5,000 at an all-day shoot, are hit standing on their cages, on the ground, or flying erratically just a few feet from the people who pretend to be sportsmen. Even standing only feet from their kill, the shooters aren’t as good as they think they are. About 70 percent of all birds are wounded, according to Heidi Prescott, HSUS senior vice-president, who for about 25 years has been documenting and leading the effort to pass legislation to finally end pigeon shoots in the state.

Birds that fall outside the shooting club’s property are left to die long and horrible deaths. If the birds are wounded on the killing fields, trapper boys and girls, most in their early teens, some of them younger, grab the birds, wring their necks, stomp on their bodies, or throw them live into barrels to suffocate. There is no food or commercial value of a pigeon killed at one of the shoots.

The lure of pigeon shoots, in addition to what the participants must think is a wanton sense of fulfillment, is gambling, illegal under Pennsylvania law but not enforced by the Pennsylvania State Police.

The International Olympic Committee banned the so-called sport after the 1900 Olympics because of its cruelty to animals. Most hunters, as well as the Pennsylvania Game Commission, say that pigeon shoots aren’t “fair chase hunting.” Almost every daily newspaper in the state and dozens of organizations, from the Council of Churches to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, oppose this form of animal cruelty.

On the floor of the House, Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood (D-Philadelphia), usually a supporter of animal rights issues, spoke out against voting on the bill, and asked other Democrats to go along with her. Youngblood is minority chair of the Gaming Oversight committee.

Youngblood’s chief of staff, Bill Thomas, emphasizes that Youngblood’s only concern was to protect the integrity of the legislative process. Although some members truly believed they voted to recommit the bill for procedural reasons, most members were just simply afraid to vote on the bill. Voting to recommit the bill were 52 Democrats, many of them opposed to pigeon shoots; 35 voted to keep it on the floor for debate. Among Republicans, the vote was 72-34 to send the bill to committee.

The Arguments

Germaneness: The Republican leadership had determined that all amendments to bills  in the current legislative session must be germane to the bill. “You can’t hijack a bill,” many in the House, including key Democrats, claimed as the major reason they voted against SB71.

However, the Republicans, with a majority in the House and able to block any bill in committee that didn’t meet their strict political agenda, raised “germaneness” to a level never before seen in the House. For decades, Democrats and Republicans attached completely unrelated amendments to bills. Even during this session, the Republicans, in violation of their own “rules,” attached amendments to allow school vouchers onto several bills, many that had nothing to do with education. But, the Greyhound racing bill was considered under both gambling and animal cruelty concerns. Thus, the amendment to ban pigeon shoots could also be considered to be an animal cruelty amendment and not subject to the Judiciary Committee, where it was likely to die.

Separate bill. Several legislators believed the attempt to stop pigeon shoots should have been its own bill, not tacked onto another bill.

However, only twice have bills about pigeon shoots come to the floor of the House. Most proposed legislation had been buried in committees or blocked by House leadership, both Democrat and Republican, most of whom received support and funding from the NRA, gun owner groups, and their political action committees (PACs). In 1989, the Pennsylvania House had defeated a bill to ban pigeon shoots, 66-126. By 1994, three years after the first large scale protest, the House voted 99-93 in favor of an amendment to ban pigeon shoots, but fell short of the 102 votes needed for passage.

The bill would duplicate or repeal a recently-signed law:

Rep. Curt Schroeder (R-Chester Co.), chair of the Gaming Oversight committee, sponsored the House version of the Senate’s bill. If it was truly an unnecessary bill, he or the leadership could have previously sent it to committee for reworking or killed it. According to sources close to the leadership, despite his concern for animal welfare, Schroeder was not pleased about the amendments tacked onto his bill.

Short time to accomplish much: Several Democrats believed that by spending extraordinary time on the bill, necessary legislation would not be brought to the floor and the Republicans could then blame the Democrats for blocking key legislation.

However, both parties already knew how they would vote for redistricting (the Republicans had gerrymandered the state to protect certain districts), school vouchers, and other proposed legislation.  Further, the Republican leadership could have blocked putting the Greyhound bill into the agenda or placed it at the end of other bills. Even on the floor of the House, the leadership could have shut down debate at any time. Thus, the Democrats’ argument about “only four days left” is blunted by the Republicans’ own actions. During 2011, the House met only 54 days when the vote on SB 71 was taken. If the House was so concerned about having only four days left in the year to discuss and vote upon critical issues, it could have added days to the work week or increased hours while in session. Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), to his credit, wanted a vote, although he personally opposed the pigeon shoot amendment. “Let’s put this issue to rest,” he told the members. Taking the time to debate the bill, says Bill Thomas, “wasted taxpayer money and time.” However, “the amount of time spent avoiding the bill,” counters Prescott, “wastes far more time and resources than voting on it.”

Nevertheless, no matter what the arguments, sending the bill to committee was a good way to avoid having to deal with a highly controversial issue. It allowed many legislators to pretend to their constituents that they still believe in animal welfare, while avoiding getting blow-back from the NRA or its supporters. Conversely, it allowed many of those who wanted to keep pigeon shoots to avoid a debate and subsequent vote, allowing continued support from pro-gun constituents who accept the NRA non-logic, while not offending constituents who believe in animal welfare.

Whatever their reasons, the failure of the many of the state’s representatives to stand up for their convictions probably caused legislation to ban this form of animal cruelty to be as dead during this session as the pigeons whose necks are wrung by teenagers who finish the kill by people who think they’re sportsmen but are little more than juveniles disguised in the bodies of adults.

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated social issues columnist, former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, whose specialties included public affairs/investigative reporting. He is professor emeritus of journalism. Dr. Brasch’s latest novel is Before the First Snow, a story of the counterculture and set in rural Pennsylvania.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D.

Latest Book: Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution

(www.greeleyandstone.com)

www.walterbrasch.com

www.walterbrasch.blogspot.com

www.facebook.com/walterbrasch

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

 

‘Following Orders’ Never a Defense for Immoral Acts

by Walter Brasch

           A man who killed 100 sled dogs has received not a prison sentence but workers’ compensation from a British Columbia agency. The man successfully proved he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after he claimed he was ordered to kill the dogs. “It was the worst experience [he] could ever imagine, his lawyer told CKNW, Vancouver, which had obtained the government document and then contacted the Humane Society.

           Howling Dog Tours Whistler, a division of Outdoor Adventures Whistler (OAW), had added hundreds of dogs prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, anticipating a significant increase in tourists who wanted to experience sled dog racing. Its advertising claimed that for $169 tourists could experience “a once in a lifetime experience [with] your team of energetic and loveable Alaskan Racing Huskies.” However, the tourism interest, combined with a lack of seasonal snow, collapsed after the Olympics.

           According to the British Columbia review decision, issued Jan. 25, the man, unidentified by name in the document but later revealed to be Robert Fawcett, general manager and founder of Howling Dog Tours Whistler, “was tasked to cull the employer’s herd by approximately 100 dogs.” OAW denies it issued any such orders. Fawcett claims he was under orders to significantly improve the financial performance, and that killing about one-third of the pack was the last resort. However, a statement posted on the OAW website says “there were no instructions given to Mr. Fawcett as to the manner of euthanizing dogs on this occasion, and Mr. Fawcett was known to have very humanely euthanized dogs on previous occasions.” Thus, it seems entirely plausible that OAW expected Fawcett to eliminate about one-third of the pack. OAW has suspended all dog sled operations.

           According to the Review Board, Fawcett claimed he made extraordinary efforts to adopt out the dogs, but told the Board there was only limited success. He said he contacted a veterinarian to humanely euthanize the dogs, but the veterinarian refused to kill healthy animals.

           In a summary of testimony, the Compensation Board noted that Fawcett previously “euthanized dogs due to old age, illness, injury and where there were unwanted puppies.” Killing dogs for population control is not acceptable, according to Mush With PRIDE, an industry-wide organization for dog sled owners. The Review Board noted Fawcett experienced stress in previous kills, many done by gunshot, but did not experience PTSD until after the killings in April 2010.

           Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society, said that his experience “in every case where people use animals to make money and when there are financial difficulties the animals’ lives are put at risk.”

           On April 21, 2010, Fawcett began the executions, using a shotgun, rifle, and knife to kill 55 dogs. Two days later, he killed 45. Most of the kills were not “clean.” The workers’ compensation board reported that dogs suffered as much as 20 minutes after first being shot before dying, and that some were shot and put alive into a mass grave.  The dogs were forced to watch others being killed before they, too, would be killed. In panic and fear, they began to attack their executioner who wrapped his arms in foam to prevent his own injuries. By the end of each day of killing, Fawcett was covered by the blood of his victims.

           The compensation board noted Fawcett’s family physician “indicated that [following the mass killings] the worker [complained] of poor appetite, inability to cope, poor memory and concentration, agitation, anger and hopelessness after the mass culling.” A psychologist, according to the board’s report, “noted that he [Fawcett] complained of panic attacks, nightmares, sleeps disturbance, anger, irritability and depressed mood.”

           Almost all references to the killings-by official documents and on the OAW website-use the word “euthanized” to describe what happened to the dogs and not the more accurate, “murdered.”

            The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Vancouver Humane Society are now investigating the killings, and criminal charges may be filed.

           Fawcett may believe he was ordered to get rid of the animals to improve cost effectiveness. He may also believe he had no other option but to kill them to meet financial demands of his employer. But, there is always an option, and nothing can excuse what he did or how he carried out the executions.

           The “Superior Orders Doctrine,” informally known as the “I was only following orders” defense, is no defense at all. The first time it was recorded was probably in 1476 when Pietro diHagenbach, a knight in the Holy Roman Empire, claimed that atrocities and torture committed under his direction, but not personally conducted by him, was ordered by his superior, the Duke of Burgandy. For allowing such heinous crimes, DiHagenbach was beheaded.

           The Nuremberg Defense by Nazis following World War II that they couldn’t be held accountable for the Holocaust and its atrocities because they were only following orders was dismissed by the court. The Nuremberg Principle IV is clear: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

           In U.S. v. Keenan (1969) a Marine private claimed he was not guilty of a war crime when he killed an unarmed elderly Vietnamese civilian because he was following the direct order of his superior. However, the Court of Military Appeals ruled “the justification for acts done pursuant to orders does not exist if the order was of such a nature that a man of ordinary sense and understanding would know it to be illegal.” The rejection of the “following orders defense” to commit illegal and immoral acts in a non-military setting, when the terror of war isn’t imminent, is even more appalling and inexcusable when a person’s life isn’t in jeopardy.

           Robert Fawcett may actually be experiencing PTSD as a result of the torture and murder of 100 huskies. He may need long-term physical and mental care. But, by he also cruelly and brutally killed animals, for whatever reason he thought he had to do so. For that alone, there can, and should be, no defense.

 

Hunting for Courageous Legislators: Pennsylvania Continues to Lead the Nation in Animal Cruelty

by Walter Brasch

           Twenty minutes South of Harrisburg, Pa., on a two hour drive to her home near Gaithersburg, Md., Heidi Prescott shed a tear. No one else saw it, only one other person could hear it in her voice. It was about 9 p.m., Tuesday, June 29.

           Prescott, senior vice-president of campaigns for the 11-million member Humane Society of the United States, values her reputation as a compassionate but tough lobbyist, but more than two decades of grief and hope was in that tear. For five straight days, she had driven to the Capitol; this would be the week, she was led to believe by the House leadership, that the Legislature would finally bring forth a vote to ban live pigeon shoots. But, in a late night deal, the Legislature had come to a decision about the next year’s budget, and that meant it would recess before voting on the bill to ban pigeon shoots.

           Every Tuesday, when the Pennsylvania legislature is in session, Prescott spends five to 10 hours working the 50 state senators and 203 representatives, every one of whom she knows by name and by their political beliefs. She seldom eats, rushing from office to office, sitting, waiting, and talking. To staff. To elected officials. To anyone who will listen.

           With logic and facts, Prescott, who has been to more than 50 shoots, explains that placing scared and undernourished birds into a small cage, and then releasing them only 20 yards in front people with 12-gauge shotguns is not only cruel but not a sport. She explains that most of the birds, sometimes as many as 5,000 at a shoot, are hit by the shot within five to 10 feet of the cages, with many shot while standing on the ground or on the cages themselves. She gives names of life-long Pennsylvania hunters who oppose pigeon shoots because they aren’t “fair chase hunting,” and emphasizes that even the Pennsylvania Game Commission doesn’t call pigeon shoots a sport. She tells everyone she talks with that the International Olympic Committee banned pigeon shoots as cruel and inhumane after its only appearance in the 1900 Olympics. She tells stories of underage drinking and illegal gambling at the shoots. She almost tears up when she tells about a spectator at one shoot who stomped on a live bird after he ripped it from her hand. She cites statistics that show that 70 percent of all birds aren’t killed by the first shotgun blast, but are wounded, many left to die in agony over two or three days if they aren’t first picked up by paid trapper boys, some as young as eight years of age, who wring their necks, stomp on their nearly dead bodies, or stuff them live into barrels to suffocate.

           Spectators ripping the heads of live birds, throwing them in the air like footballs, and impaling live birds on plastic forks are not normal activities, she points out. To emphasize the widespread opposition to pigeon shoots, Prescott points out that more than 80 percent of all Pennsylvanians oppose the pigeon shoot, and explains why almost every daily newspaper in the state and dozens of organizations, from the Council of Churches to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, have formally opposed this form of animal cruelty. But most of all, she tries to embarrass the legislature by pointing out that Pennsylvania is the only state that allows people to openly kill live pigeons in organized contests, and that most of the shooters come to Pennsylvania because they would be arrested in their home states if they participated in pigeon shoots. Each pigeon shoot, she says, teaches children that violence and animal cruelty are acceptable practices.  

Deliberate and patient, Prescott counters several arguments by legislators. To those who believe bans should be local options not the function of the state, Prescott points to innumerable legal precedents that allow the state to act, and that if local jurisdictions were allowed to make such laws, there would be a patchwork of conflicting local ordinances. To those who believe pigeons are merely “winged rats,” and that the shoots get rid of vermin, she explains that all life is sacred, but that most of the pigeons are either captured out of state or are bred specifically to be killed. To those scared by fear-mongers in the National Rifle Association (NRA) and a couple of organizations that were bred solely to support pigeon shoots and who believe that banning pigeon shoots infringes upon the 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms, Prescott carefully explains that absolutely nothing in proposed bills or amendments would restrict firearms ownership or usage. The NRA, says Prescott, has misrepresented its members, “most of whom would never support or condone pigeon shoots.” Some say that banning pigeon shoots would be the “slippery slope” to gun restrictions. “Some representatives and senators are just dense,” she sighs.

           Prescott and her 40-person staff have been at the forefront of animal rights, persuading numerous designers and retail chains to stop selling fur, convincing all states to stop cock fighting, pushing 10 states to either ban or modify rules on puppy mills, and exposing animal cruelty in the cattle industry and the secret world of dog fighting. Normally, Prescott wouldn’t be “working” the Pennsylvania legislature, but she has taken a personal interest in Pennsylvania and in its failure to ban live pigeon shoots.

            Prescott grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and moved to Pennsylvania when she became a student at Edinboro State College (now Edinboro University). After earning  a B.A. in psychology, with a focus upon domestic violence, and an M.F.A. in art, Prescott and her husband of two years moved to the Washington, D.C., area so she could began a career as an artist. In college she was a vegetarian, but not active in animal rights issues. A mortally wounded woodpecker changed that.

           Her husband, Jim, brought the bird home. “I didn’t know what to do,” she recalls. What she did was to call several places to get assistance. “I demanded to know what I should do, where I should go,” she says. The answers she got weren’t satisfactory and the bird died the next morning. However, all her calls led her to finding a wildlife rehabilitator. For three years, she apprenticed with the rehabilitator; for five years, she mixed careers as a professional artist and certified animal rehabilitator. “I took way too many animals,” she says, “because when you say ‘No’ to helping any animal, it gets euthanized.” At times, she had dozens of birds, squirrels, bunnies, and possums in her townhouse. She readily acknowledges that her devotion to animal rescue put a strain upon her marriage. She and Jim divorced after six years.

           In 1989, Prescott stopped being a professional artist and became a professional animal rights advocate and began working 60-80 hour weeks-when she wasn’t arrested.

           In Strausstown, Pa., she was arrested when she tried to save a wounded pigeon. In Pikeville, Pa., she was arrested for walking across the street to hand a press release to a reporter. And then there was Hegins, site of the nation’s largest pigeon shoot, one that brought more than 200 shooters and several hundred paying spectators every Labor Day to the isolated rural community in northeast Pennsylvania to watch the killing of more than 5,000 birds. She attended the shoot in 1990, and then went back with a team of rehabilitators the next day. It was that day she knew that eliminating pigeon shoots would be her cause. She picked up a bird lying on the field, turned her over and realized she was gasping for air. Both of her legs had been blown off and she was in the final stage of dying. The team was forced to euthanize her. “It was just that act of her struggle to live and then her dying in my hands,” says Prescott, “when I made that promise to do everything I could do to stop this cruelty.”

           Several animal rights groups, led by Prescott, launched massive protests in 1991 and 1992, including running onto the shooting fields to rescue the birds, and chaining themselves to concrete blocks and fences. Prescott was one of the rescuers who ran onto the fields to open cages to free the birds, “knowing they would not be shot.” Twice she served 15 days in the Schuylkill County jail for trespassing, theft, and the receipt of stolen property-she had picked up wounded birds from the shooting fields. She could have paid the $500 fines, but chose jail because “I wasn’t about to give that county even one dollar.”

           Confrontational protests, which had succeeded in bringing media attention to mankind’s cruelty, were abandoned in 1993 in favor of a bird rescue program. “Most of the public’s attention was on the confrontation instead of the horror of what was happening to the animals,” says Prescott, “and we wanted to refocus the attention upon the cruelty.” In a statement to the Court for one incident, Prescott explained her philosophy of life. “I did not physically strike, obstruct, yell at, or insult anyone with whom I communicated,” she said without bitterness.

           In 1989, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives had defeated a bill to ban pigeon shoots, 66-126. By 1994, three years after the first large scale protest, the House voted 99-93 in favor of an amendment to ban pigeon shoots, but fell short of the 102 votes needed for passage. That was the last time the full House voted on any bill or amendment to stop pigeon shoots.

           Cowered by the perceived power of the NRA, which has about one-third the membership of the Humane Society-and only 200,000 members in Pennsylvania against 670,000 Pennsylvanians in the Humane Society-House and Senate leaders of both parties, primarily from the rural areas, continuously blocked bills from getting out of Committee and onto the floor for a vote.

           In the 21 years since she first began protesting pigeon shoots, Prescott has been cursed, shoved, poked, hit, slammed against a car, and had boot-clad spectators deliberately step upon her sneakered feet. A pacifist, she never resisted. But the greatest wounds, she says, were the lies she was told by legislators who promised what they would never deliver-a vote to ban pigeon shoots. “Their lies and distortions caused a waste of resources and time, and led to thousands more animals who suffered cruel deaths each year,” says Prescott.

           “It’s time for the Pennsylvania legislature to stop playing politics,” she says. Shortly after the House reconvenes on Sept. 13, Prescott hopes she will shed yet another tear, this time one of joy, as a majority of the House and Senate develop a spine and resist the prattling of a minority of self-proclaimed “sportsmen” and of national organizations that help fund their campaigns, and do what’s right, what every other state has done-stop the cruelty of pigeon shoots. “The only place this bill seems to be controversial is within the walls of the Capitol,” says Prescott.

           “I know how close we are, and if we give up now,” she says, “we will never fully appreciate the strength and courage of the animals that lay dying in my hands because of the cruelty of mankind. It’s an image of life I can not live with, and giving up now is unthinkable.”

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist and author of 17 books. He first reported on pigeon shoots in 1990, and has covered them and the Pennsylvania legislature since. You may contact Dr. Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu]