Lancaster captive turkey shooters convicted–a first in Pennsylvania

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2007:
LANCASTER, Pa.–The Elstonville Sportsmen’s Association on
March 9, 2007 pleaded “no contest” to eight cruelty counts brought
against the club for hosting a live turkey shoot in Rapho Township
on September 9, 2006.
The “no contest” plea acknowledged the facts of the case,
including an agreement to pay all fines, without admitting guilt.
Elstonville Sportsmen’s Association attorney Michael Winters
told Ad Crable of the Lancaster New Era that in response to the
charges the club had elected new leadership, and had adopted a new
rule that forbids “the use of any living entity for the sole purpose
of being a target,” even if the use is allowed by law.

Farm Sanctuary of Pennsylvania humane officer Keith Mohler
“spent about four months investigating the event,” recounted Brett
Lovelace of the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. “Mohler attended
the turkey shoot after a female club member complained to him. The
woman escorted Mohler to the club grounds, where contestants,
including children, paid $12 for three attempts to hit a turkey with
an arrow. The archers fired at turkeys mounted on hay bales.
Children were allowed to shoot from less than 50 feet, Mohler said.”
“The turkeys were hit with body shots,” Mohler recounted.
“They squawked and cried out. They were not killed instantly. If
you drew blood, you won the turkey. Then the turkey’s head was cut
off, and someone processed the turkey on site.”
Wrote Lovelace, “Alcohol was served at the contest, which
began about 7:30 a.m. Mohler arrived around 2 p.m., and saw three
turkeys killed. Mohler called state police, and troopers shut down
the event,” apparently the first live bird shoot in Pennsylvania
stopped by law enforcement.
An annual live pigeon shoot held at Hegins, Pennsylvania,
was cancelled after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in July 1999
that pigeon shoot promoters and participants could be charged with
cruelty. The organizers did not attempt to challenge the law. The
Hegins pigeon shoot had been held on Labor Day every year from 1935
through 1998, and had attracted annual protests for at least 12
However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January 2004
upheld the refusal of the Superior Court of Berks County to issue an
injunction against pigeon shoots held by the Pike Township
Sportsmen’s Association. The Berks County court held that pigeon
shoots do not violate Pennsylvania anti-cruelty law if “reasonable
efforts” are made to prevent and minimize the resultant animal
Following the Lancaster County verdict, the Humane League of
Lancaster, Humane Society of Berks County, Bucks County SPCA,
Chester County SPCA, Humane League of Lebanon County, and the
Humane Society of Harrisburg Area united in support of state bill 73,
to prohibit either holding or attending live bird shoots.
“I’m a hunter,” said state representative Mike Sturla
(D-Lancaster), who co-sponsored SB-73, “but this is cruelty, plain
and simple.”
The bill was referred to the Pennsylvania house judiciary
committee. There it met opposition from Tom Creighton (R-Rapho
Towns-hip), who objected to the proposed punishment of a year in
jail and loss of the right to own a firearm.
“It’s a local issue. The state should stay out of it,”
added fellow judiciary committee member Katie True (R-East Hempfield
The Elstonville Sports-men’s Association was fined for
hosting the live turkey shoot just over a year after United
Bowhunters of New Jersey on February 18, 2006 hosted a live pheasant
shoot in Sussex County that was investigated by the New Jersey SPCA,
after video of the event was posted to a web site. “It appears they
were using the birds for target practice, which is illegal,” New
Jersey SPCA spokesman Matt Stanton told Tom Baldwin of the Asbury
Park Press.
“I didn’t see anything illegal in the video,” responded New
Jersey Bureau of Wildlife Management chief Larry Herrighty.

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