Bensalem police are investigating the Philadelphia Gun Club for animal cruelty after animal-rights activists filmed someone there allegedly throwing an injured pigeon and pelting it with rocks and ice.
Activists from SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness) have long protested the riverside club's semiannual pigeon shoots, in which hunters shoot at live birds released from boxes.
Pigeons wounded but not killed by gunfire often drown in the Delaware River, the activists charge. SHARK Investigator Stuart Chaifetz two weeks ago filmed an alleged club associate chasing injured birds on the riverbank, throwing them to the ground, pelting them with rocks and ice and jabbing them with sticks in violation of state animal-cruelty laws.
The group released the video Thursday morning.
"It is heartbreaking to watch these innocent birds being so brutally violated again and again," Chaifetz said. "The Gun Club must release the name of their worker and cooperate with us so he can be fully prosecuted. This person should be prosecuted because someone who causes such pain and agony to animals may also pose a danger to people as well."
SHARK President Steve Hindi agreed: "The Philadelphia Gun Club has a moral, ethical and legal obligation to have workers on the shoreline of the river to humanely kill any wounded birds that land there."
Bensalem Lt. William McVey confirmed that police began investigating the club for animal cruelty after SHARK activists reported the club for suspected abuses.
"We are still actively investigating the matter. At this time, no charges have been filed," McVey said.
Sean M. Corr, an attorney who represents the club, said concerned club members are just as interested in learning the identity of the person Chaifetz filmed.
"All we can say now is that we can't identify who the person is, and we're cooperating with the police investigation," Corr said. "It appears that he was down range during active shooting, and we don't station anybody in front of the firing line. That just adds to the mystery."
The club filed a federal lawsuit against SHARK in 2014 accusing the activists of stalking, harassment, trespass, intimidation, defamation, libel and privacy invasion.
That case resulted in an agreement that the club would reduce how many pigeon shoots they hold annually (from about 18 to no more than 12) if the activists agreed to not publicize video, photographs or information identifying club members, according to a joint motion filed in court Jan. 4. The agreement also requires the club "to promptly retrieve and humanely dispatch wounded birds," court documents show.
Pennsylvania allows live pigeon shooting, although it's the only state to do so, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Bills that would prohibit them have been repeatedly introduced - and shot down - in the state legislature since 1989.