Friday, March 1, 2024
animal welfareanimal welfare legislation

Pennsylvania HB1750 Still Faces Opposition

pigeons on the sidewalk
Pigeons on the sidewalk, do they need to die?

When HB1750 contained a ban on the slaughter and sale of cats and dogs as food it proved to be an easy vote in the Pennsylvania legislature. In June an amendment was added to prohibit the use of dogs, cats or other live animals or fowl for targets at trap shoots or block shoots and suddenly there were problems. Not with Pennsylvania residents, most of whom polled prior to the amendment being added agreed with it already. If you agree with this legislation, you need to call your legislators now so that they have your message when they come back into session in September, when they only have 12 session days to vote on remaining legislation. If you have a chance to talk to them in person while they are in your district, please do so.

Opposition or support of Pennsylvania residents?

Below is one section of the results of an official poll on the subject.

625 registered Pennsylvania voters interviewed statewide by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. of Washington, D.C. from October 24 through October 26, 2013. Margin for error is plus or minus 4%.
QUESTION: Pigeon shoots are contests similar to clay or skeet shoots where contestants pay a fee to shoot live animals that are released and launched from traps.  The competitors score by dropping the birds into a scoring ring. The state legislature is considering a bill to prohibit live pigeon shoot contests in the state. Do you support or oppose this legislation?


SUPPORT        75%    64%    83%    81%    66%    77%
OPPOSE         16%    23%    11%    13%    21%    12%
UNDECIDED       9%    13%     6%     6%    13%    11%

You can read the remainder of the results of this poll here. It’s clear there is wide support among Pennsylvania residents to ban the use of live pigeons in sport shoots in particular. This is a small poll but the numbers aren’t even close with at least a 4-to-1 vote against pigeon shoots.

However, the NRA sent an alert to members which has been passed around among other hunting, sporting and shooting groups to call legislators and voice opposition to HB 1750 once the pigeon shoot amendment was added because pigeon shoots are “tradition” and this ban is just the start of more prohibitions to come. The text below is from the NRA alert linked above.

These bans begin the slide down a slippery slope, and HSUS’s next stop will be regulated shooting grounds and a ban on the stocking of pheasants, as they attempted to do in neighboring New Jersey.

You can find more of these alerts in press releases, forums and letters to the editor by searching “Pennsylvania HB 1750 opposition”.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a pigeon shoot actually is, it’s live pigeons collected and caged for the event, then released in the presence of people with rifles to shoot them as they fly from their cages. There’s no hunting them down, it’s a shooting event. Videos of the events show birds injured but not killed, left to writhe in pain, or picked up to have their necks broken. Birds are usually collected in larger cities where they are plentiful and moved to the site of the shoot. They are often not fed or watered after caging, cruel in itself, so they are weak and disoriented and become easy targets. In the last century pigeon shoots were common in communities all across the country as fundraisers at events like the barrel contests fire companies host, and no one thought too much about the pigeons involved. But one by one communities and states stopped then banned the pigeon shoots calling them inhumane, though private organizations could and did still shoot. Pennsylvania is one of those states. The last public pigeon shoot was stopped in 1998, but private gun clubs have continued with them.

What does the amendment actually say?

The legislation does not target pigeon shoots, though certainly they would be included under the ban. It actually prohibits all use of live animals as targets at trap or block shoots. Please visit visit this page to read HB1750, with the amendment in place, plus the voting history and other information. It’s a quick read, and not at all hard to understand. The amendment that would ban live pigeon shoots doesn’t even mention pigeon shoots, but a ban on the shooting of any live animal including dogs and cats for target practice, and specifically mentions that other permitted hunting activities are not covered under this statute. Here is the text of just that section:

1   (c.2) Use of dogs, cats or other live animals or fowl for
2   targets at trap shoot or block shoot prohibited.–

3   (1) A person commits a summary offense if that person
4   operates a trap shoot or block shoot in which dogs, cats or
5   other live animals or fowl are used as targets.

6   (2) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to
7   apply to activity which is authorized or permitted under 34
8   Pa.C.S. (relating to game) or a special permit under 58 Pa.
9   Code Ch. 147 (relating to special permits).

10  * * *

11  (q) Definitions.–As used in this section, the following
12  words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this
13  subsection:

14  * * *

15  “Block shoot.” An event during which participants shoot or
16  attempt to shoot targets which:

17  (1) from a fixed location within a predefined shooting
18  field, are manually or with electronic or mechanical
19  assistance launched or otherwise immediately presented to the
20  shooter; or

21  (2) when presented to the shooter, are:

22  (i) affixed to a tethering device; or

23  (ii) otherwise impaired from ordinary movement.

24  * * *

25  “Fowl.” A bird, as defined in 34 Pa.C.S. § 102 (relating to
26  definitions). The term excludes a game bird.

27  “Game bird.” As defined in 34 Pa.C.S. § 102 (relating to
28  definitions).

29  * * *

30  “Trap shoot.” A block shoot.

Read it and decide for yourself.

Calling your legislator

One of claims in the NRA alert was that support for the legislation was coming from out of state, from organizations like the HSUS and ASPCA who also contacted their membership to support the bill.Yes, those organizations do support the bill and contacted their members in this state to voice their support of the bill. But support for the bill was already here.

One way to prove that support for HB1750 with the amendment has support from Pennsylvania residents is to actually contact your legislators and go on record with your opinion. Emails, phone calls, even face-to-face visits will tell your legislator your opinion. You can even call after hours and leave a message, and it still counts as voicing your opinion. The important thing is to get your opinion out there.


If someone wants to hunt, to pit themselves against the abilities of a wild animal, and plans to use that animal for food for themselves or to donate, I have no problem. I know many hunters who are serious and highly skilled with every weapon that is permitted in Pennsylvania and even other states, and who hunt for everything that has a permit to be hunted. They make use of everything they take, and I respect their ability and dedication to a skill that changed the human race centuries ago.

But it was they who explained to me exactly what pigeon shoots were all about because they had participated in them for years and it’s far less about skill in shooting than it is about wagering. In asking those hunters I know who truly enjoy shooting and who have in the past participated in pigeon shoots, all agree they’ve long thought it was cruel and it’s not terribly satisfying as a hunter and a gun user, and they had decided to stop years ago. They also said it should not be considered a sport but a wagering activity like horse racing.

From what they’ve described and the videos I’ve seen, collecting birds and tossing them in the air for people to shoot for money and then to let the birds suffer and die in pain in the field is something I find as cruel as plucking chickens alive and forcing pigs to breed and nurse while wired into a breeding cage for a lifetime. This video begins and ends with a clip from a pigeon shoot in Pennsylvania.

And you can also go to the Pennsylvania General Assembly page to find your legislators where you’ll see a map of Pennsylvania, click on your county and you’ll see a list of communities and the state house and senate representatives. Their names are linked to their assembly pages  so you can see their phone numbers and emails. Use them.

Thanks to the non-partisan Humane USA PA Political Action Committee for keeping me and many others up to date on this legislation. This organization helps to sort out the issues and support all candidates who are animal-friendly regardless of party. On their website, you can find links to the issues mentioned above and find the legislation that might influence the issues one way or the other, plus find information on candidates who sponsor and support humane legislation. In this article you can read about their methodology for determining who they will endorse, and what those candidates have to say on animal issues, and they even publish a list of endorsements you can study before you vote. Your state may have an organization like this as well so that you can research the statements and voting record of a candidate.

And as a citizen always keep informed about House and Senate actions your legislator may vote on, and don’t hesitate to voice your opinion. In the issues of animal welfare and all issues affecting our lives, it only works if our legislators represent all of us, and that can only happen if you participate.

Read more articles in the category Advocacy.

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