Of pigeons and pets: Pa. animal rights bill dies

     (NewsWorks File Photo)

    (NewsWorks File Photo)

    Pigeon shoots can live on in Pennsylvania, and cats and dogs can still be eaten in the privacy of your own home.

    That’s the state of affairs now that state lawmakers have left town without passing a state proposal banning both activities.

    A House bill banning only the slaughter of dogs and cats for private human consumption began its legislative life with unanimous support last year.

    Things got complicated.

    Before summer, the Senate added a ban on pigeon shoots, where hunters take aim at the birds released from spring-loaded traps. The Senate sent back the changed bill to the House, where it languished in committee.

    Steve Miskin, spokesman for the Republican House majority leader, said the concern among members was that the amended proposal “wasn’t vetted.”

    When asked who opposed the pigeon shoot ban, the measure’s sponsor, Rep. John Maher, R-Allegheny, replied, “Well … people who shoot pigeons.”

    Some would shoot holes in that theory. Back in June, when a Senate committee approved the pigeon shoot ban, Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, voiced confusion that “rats with wings” inspire such sympathy.

    “If we’re concerned about the welfare of these pigeons, and I guess that’s the point of what we’re trying to do here, then we should also prohibit municipalities from poisoning pigeons, shocking pigeons to death, trapping pigeons and taking them off-premises and killing them,” said Eichelberger.

    But John Goodwin, director of Animal Cruelty Policy at the Humane Society of the United States, said it’s hard to see the traditional hunting ethos at events where birds are rounded up, confined in cages, propelled out, shot, and may have their necks snapped if they don’t die once they’re hit.

    “That’s a lot of pain and agony just so people can sit there and shoot at pigeons when clay pigeons would more than suffice,” Goodwin said.

    Animal rights activists have been trying to end pigeon shoots for decades.

    The private consumption of dogs and cats is a more recent cause. Authorities can already press charges for the commercial sale of domestic animal meat for human consumption.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.