Did Christmas bring the end of the Strausstown club pigeon shoots?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2009:
STRAUSTOWN, Pennsylvania–“Christmas came a day late, but
our present was well worth the wait,” said SHARK founder Steve
Hindi, calling ANIMAL PEOPLE on December 29, 2008 to announce the
apparent end of pigeon shoots at the Strausstown Rod and Gun
Club–perhaps the most openly defiant among the last several places
in the U.S. where legal pigeon shoots were held.
“Neither a heavy thunderstorm nor the activities of an animal
rights group silenced the gunfire Saturday at the Strausstown Rod &
Gun Club’s weekend pigeon shoot,” wrote Steven Henshaw of the
Reading Eagle back in August 2008, when representatives of the
Humane Society of the U.S. and Humane Society of Berks County spent
eight hours trying to document prosecutable cruelty at a shoot.
On that occasion the humane investigators did not get the
evidence they needed, but their effort renewed Hindi’s notice.
Beginning 15 years earlier, Hindi protested and videotaped
at Strausstown Rod & Gun Club captive bird shoots on several
occasions between leading demonstrations and collecting videotaped
evidence of wounded pigeons suffering at the annual Hegins pigeon
shoot, formerly held each Labor Day.
The Hegins shoot, the last public pigeon shoot held in the
U.S., ended after 63 years in 1998, 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, in the last state in which pigeon shoots remain
legal even in theory.
Private shoots at Strausstown and three other Pennsylvania
gun clubs continued, apparently beyond reach of humane prosecutors
because of the difficulty of gathering evidence from private property
without a search warrant, which local judges balked at issuing.
But a March 2007 “no contest” plea entered by the Elstonville
Sportsmen’s Association of Rapho Township in response to eight
cruelty counts pertaining to a September 2006 turkey shoot
demonstrated that the private gun clubs were not invulnerable.
The SHARK team made their first attempt to document the
proceedings at the Strausstown Rod & Club on November 23, but “While
we still setting up our video equipment on the public easement,”
Hindi recounted, “we were harassed and forced to leave by
Pennsylvania police corporal Kenneth J. Winter. Fortunately,
Corporal Winter’s misbehavior was so outrageous, it not only made
for a very illuminating YouTube video, but caught the attention of
the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The
ACLU warned the Pennsylvania State Police in no uncertain terms that
further violations of our rights would result in court action.”
SHARK returned to Strausstown on December 7. A man driving a
pickup truck loaded with crates of pigeons told the SHARK team to
leave. “As before, the state police were called,” said Hindi.
“But after the officer informed the driver of the truck that we did
not have to leave, the truck left, still loaded with live pigeons.
We waited for a long time to see if it would return, but it didn’t.”
The Strausstown year-ending pigeon shoot was to be held on
December 26. SHARK brought a 31-foot “Hi-Pod” to be able to
videotape the shoot from an elevated vantage point, but all the team
captured on camera were pigeon supplier Don Bailey and other workers
dismantling the pigeon shooting facilities. “For two more mornings
we monitored the gun club, Don Bailey’s house,” about a mile from
the Strausstown Rod & Gun Club, “and another gun club called Wing
Pointe used for pigeon shoots. Nothing was happening,” Hindi
Local activists continue to monitor the scene.