September 15, 2017
And just like that, groups such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Federated Humane Societies of PA, that supported Libre’s Law and knew about the exemption, sold out pigeons just to claim a victory.
SHARK's position had been that pigeon shoots violated pre-existing state law. You can read our report on this HERE. To summarize, pigeons were neither covered under game code regulations nor were they exempted from the cruelty statute. Therefore, as an un-exempted “animal” they were a protected species.
SHARK investigators were not the only ones who knew that pigeon shoots were already illegal. SHARK released videos with five current and former humane police officers who went on the record stating the illegality of pigeon shoots. These included Former PA SPCA Executive Director Erik Hendricks, retired PA humane society police officer Clayton Hulsizer, retired PA humane society police officers Johnna Seeton, Debra Hartman and Berks County Humane Society Executive Director and PA humane society police officer Karel Minor. Pigeon shooters got away with their indefensible illegal cruelty simply due to their wealth, power and political connections.
Once the exemption outrage was exposed, HSUS quickly sent out an email claiming that the exemption maintained the “status quo,” in other words, pigeon shoots were already legal. What HSUS failed to say was that they know this is false.
How did they know? Because in the fall of 2013, state and national representatives from HSUS had a meeting at the PA Attorney General’s office, where SHARK Investigator Stuart Chaifetz presented the same report listed above. HSUS was very impressed with our report and we left that meeting in agreement over SHARK’s strategy. So if you receive the HSUS email about Libre’s Law, please remind them about this.
At this point we need to let you know that for years, HSUS begged SHARK many times not to take action that they felt would hurt legislation banning pigeon shoots in the PA legislature, and though we had to bite our tongue, we did because we did not want to take any chance of hurting a bill’s passage. Sadly, after years of empty promises from HSUS that a bill was about to become law, it never did. HSUS has now suffered decades of failure and to make matters infinitely worse, the bill they supported has now negated SHARK’s main strategy for ending pigeon shoots.
HSUS didn’t give us the courtesy of a warning about the exemption because they knew we would be against it. Instead they shoved a proverbial knife in the backs of the pigeons, and those who protect them.
Even amongst the groups that supported Libre’s law there was disagreement about the legality of pigeon shoots. While HSUS are hanging everything onto a claim that pigeon shoots were legal, the aforementioned Karel Minor (from Federated Humane) has not only stated shoots were illegal, but he was quoted in Animals 24/7 as saying the following:
“Since the existing law has not been successfully used to prosecute a shoot,” Minor contended, “this exemption is not standing in the way of successful prosecutions, since none are occurring. In the counties where shoots occur, District Attorneys have actively quashed prosecutions on any grounds, including in Berks County by Humane Pennsylvania, regardless of current law.”
This is 100% false. Last year, video SHARK took at a pigeon shoot in Bucks County, where a worker tortured pigeons, was given to the Local police and District Attorney. That person was charged with and pled guilty to charges of animal cruelty. This was an historic event and we proved it was possible to obtain successful prosecutions.
While the exemption is a devastating set-back for our fight against pigeon shoots, we are committed to redoubling our efforts in PA. We will continue to fight hard for pigeons and work to end shoots and we will do it because these innocent birds desperately need help - and there is no one else willing to do what has to be done.
Some of us at SHARK have known leaders at HSUS for decades, going back to when they worked for the Fund for Animals and we used to fight bear hunts in PA together. In our opinion, once they started making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, it became easier and easier to sell out animals instead of doing the right thing. Perhaps they need to get back onto the killing field with us so they can look a wounded pigeon in the eye and then say how selling them out was acceptable.