In history-making action Wednesday the Pennsylvania Senate voted overwhelmingly to end live pigeon shoots.
The passage of House Bill 1750 was not the final vote, but it represented a milestone in the history of animal welfare in the Commonwealth.
It was the first time the upper chamber of the General Assembly ever voted on a pigeon bill and the first time in 20 years a full floor vote on pigeon shoot legislation was held.
Gov. Corbett, through a spokesman, told The Inquirer Thursday he will sign the bill if it clears the House on its final voting day on Monday.
To say the Senate vote was a landmark moment in legislative history is no overstatement. The Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania had placed banning pigeon shoots on its first agenda when it was founded - in 1906.
The bill prevailed with a vote of 36 -12 despite efforts by NRA-backed opponents to pass amendments to derail it, such as a proposal by Sen. Mike Bruubaker (R., Lancaster) to codify the shoots in law and regulate them under the Pennsylvania Game Commission
The bill also contains a provision to ban the sale of cats and dogs for human consumption.
Pigeon shoots, held at gun clubs in Pennsylvania for at least 150 years, culminated in the1990s with the Labor Day weekend Roman circus known as Hegins, a veritable orgy of blood and feathers in Schuylkill County that drew hundreds of spectators, protesters and media. The shoot ran for decades until a legal battle forced it to shut down.
This legislation would clarify that pigeon shoots are unlawful in Pennsylvania and that engaging in a pigeon shoot constitutes animal cruelty.
The contests, which today are held only at a handful of clubs, including Wing Pointe Resort in Berks County and Philadelphia Gun Club in Bensalem, involve stuffing pigeons into small boxes from which they are launched and shot at close range. In another "game" called a "tower shoot" scores of pigeons are crammed in a wooden box atop a wagon and flushed out at once allowing shooters standing in a circle to pick off the stunned birds as they flutter about.
During a shoot hundreds of wounded birds fly off to die slow, miserable deaths. The sorry few that land, maimed in the field are stomped on, thrown to the ground and kicked, torturous actions documented by SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), the Bob Barker-backed groups seeking to bury the shoots once and for all.
"Live pigeon shoots are a disgrace, and they bear no resemblance to hunting. There’s no consumption of the animal, no pretense of “wildlife management,” no hunting license, no bag limits, no fair chase," wrote Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society of the United States in his blog on Thursday. "There’s only pain and suffering and death of innocent creatures, for no good reason.".
In his appeal to members to help get the bill across the finish line, Pacelle wrote:
"The march to end animal cruelty is often a long and strained and frustrating one, and that’s been the case in spades with this campaign. But now we are just steps away from an important advance for our movement, and we must finish this task."