A teenager hired to humanely kill birds injured by hunters at the Philadelphia Gun Club has been charged with animal cruelty after an animal-rights activist filmed him last month throwing injured pigeons and pelting them with rocks and ice.
The boy, 17, of Bridgeton, N.J., was working for a subcontractor hired by the riverside club in Bensalem to retrieve and euthanize birds wounded during a Jan. 30 pigeon shoot, Bensalem Police Lt. William McVey said. His name wasn't released because he is a juvenile.
Activists from SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) have long protested the semiannual shoots, in which hunters gun down live birds released from boxes. A SHARK activist filmed the teen 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 shoots are legal in Pennsylvania, so there's nothing we can do about that. Our concern is the treatment of the animal once it is shot, to make sure it's (euthanasia) done as humanely and swiftly as possible," McVey said. "In this case, it crossed the line."
While SHARK activists were happy the teen was identified and charged, they accused the club of trying to mislead authorities by initially claiming the bird-basher was a heartless trespasser who wandered onto club grounds.
"In the end the truth came out," SHARK President Steve Hindi said. "We believe it is important that this person be prosecuted not just for the cruelty to animals, but also because someone who causes such pain and suffering to animals may also pose a danger to people as well. That's why the FBI created an animal abuse database."
But Sean M. Corr, an attorney who represents the club, said: "The Philadelphia Gun Club cooperated with the police and does not believe the individual would have been apprehended without our cooperation."
Christopher Markos, an attorney for SHARK, said the teen's behavior may violate the terms of a federal lawsuit the club and SHARK settled last month, in which the club agreed to humanely kill injured birds.
"SHARK is pleased to see the animal cruelty statute enforced, but troubled that this was allowed to occur in the first place," Markos said. "It shows that whatever steps the gun club has taken up until now to keep its promise have been inadequate, so the Bensalem Police Department's decision to file charges doesn't satisfy SHARK's concern that future shoots held at the gun club also won't comply with the agreement. Right now, SHARK is exploring their options in pursuing an appropriate remedy, including returning to court."
Corr declined to address that issue, saying such debate belongs in court.
Pennsylvania is the only state to allow live pigeon shooting, 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.