Springfield – Animal rights activists are calling for the resignations of two Illinois Department of Conservation officials for "obstruction of justice" relating to a Dec. 30 pigeon shoot in Seneca.
Chicago Animal Rights Coalition spokesman Steve hind of Plano is urging Conservation Director Brent Manning and department spokeswoman Carol Knowles to resign.
Hindi, who contends pigeon shoots are illegal, charges department officials wrongly endorsed the Dec. 30 event by advising local authorities it was legal.
"We feel there is no place in government for individual (Carol Knowles) who encourages violation of state law," Hindi said. "And we further believe Director Brent Manning should be replaced to clear the way for an administration that will truly promote conservation and conduct itself within the confines of state statutes."
Hindi's charges highlight the ongoing debate over the legality of pigeon shoots in Illinois.
Pigeon shoots are organized events in which people pay entry fees and compete for prizes by shooting live pigeons as the birds are catapulted out of small cages.
Hindi, a Plano businessman who made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination in the 84th House District last spring, has argued for years that such events are inhumane.
Hindi outlined evens surrounding the pigeon shoot at a Seneca gun club and what he believes was the involvement of the Conservation Department.
Hindi said Mark Walczynski, a Conservation Department police officer, told LaSalle County sheriff's deputies t at pigeons shoots are legal. Therefore, no arrests were made at the December event, which continued for about 1 ½ hours.
Walczynski's supervisor, Conservation police Lt. Jim Thomas said he spoke with Walczynski after the incident and believes "he was trying to get across that as far as he was concerned, it is not illegal to shoot pigeons under the Conservation Code."
"Our jurisdiction applies to fish and wildlife under the Conservation Code, and under the code, pigeons are not protected," Thomas said. "It's debatable as to whether or not it is illegal. I haven't seen anything which makes it illegal."
A spokesman from the LaSalle County Sheriff's Department, Capt. Tom Templeton, confirmed that no arrests were made at the pigeon shoot. "I don't know that there was a violation of the law," he said.
Templeton said one deputy was dispatched to the scene after the department received a complaint from the animal rights group.
"The organizers voluntarily stopped the pigeon shoot and agreed to wait for a (legal) opinion on it," he said. As far as I know, no one has told me about any law."
Although pigeon shoots were legal at one time in the state under the Bird Shooting Act, the act was repealed in December 1991.
According to an informal opinion from the Illinois Attorney General's office published Sept. 16, 1992, pigeon shoots fall under the Humane Care for Animals Act, which prohibits owning animals with the "intended use of killing them for sport, wagering or entertainment."
Attorney General spokesman Ernie Slottag said, "We are saying in our letter it (Humane Care for Animals Act) applies, and pigeons shoots are illegal. It's up to state's attorneys and county sheriffs to enforce it, and then if someone challenges it in court and it's found unconstitutional, it doesn't apply."
Knowles said the Department of Conservation issued permits for pigeon shoots "up until about a year ago. Then the legislature changed the law and we no longer provide those permits. So the Department of Conservation is not involved in this at all," she said.
Knowles told Hindi, "We aren't involved with enforcing the Humane Care for Animals Act. There could have been some confusion about whether or not we are providing permits."
It's up to a county sheriff to prosecute, she said. "The best thing to do is have someone arrested and have it go through the courts ... In order for pigeon shoots to be declared illegal, it must go through the regular court system as anything else would, and the (attorney general's) opinion, like anything else, has to go through the court system.
Knowles said she did not take Hindi's call or her and Manning's resignation seriously.
"I don't think Steve would like to see me unemployed. I think he knows I do a good, honest job. I appreciate his thoughts. He is trying to accomplish his goal and he is trying to get media attention to do that; and sometimes that's the only way you can do it. I take no offense to it," she said.