Sunday, November 18, 2007

Protecting Raptors from Pigeon Racers

A U.S. representative from Oregon, Peter DeFazio, introduced a bill in the House to make killing raptors a felony. The bill comes in response to an incident in which two pigeon racing enthusiasts trapped and killed numerous birds of prey for eating their pigeons. Killing (or otherwise taking) any native bird is already illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, but currently it is a misdemeanor.

Citing public anger about the crimes, prosecutors sought fines of $10,000 against two of the men. But U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty in Portland sentenced each to pay $4,000 -- a $2,000 fine and another $2,000 to a fund at the Oregon Zoo that helps pay for wildlife projects.

DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, said the fines were far too light, especially considering that Oregon takes animal abuse crimes seriously. "I was absolutely outraged about what these people were doing, and they're just getting a slap on the wrist," DeFazio said today in a telephone interview.

In a letter to colleagues seeking support for his bill, DeFazio said Congress should take action against the killing of raptors just as it moved to restrict dog fighting after a high-profile case involving National Football League quarterback Michael Vick. ...

He described the Oregon cases and estimates by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that roller pigeon hobbyists in Oregon and California joined in the illegal killing of up to 3,000 birds of prey a year.
I think that this bill is probably a long shot to become law. Many bills are proposed by individual lawmakers and never come up for a vote because they are either tabled or die in committee. (See Dennis Kucinich's impeachment resolutions.) Unless Congressional leaders want the bill to pass, it is going to fall by the wayside. Protecting birds has been even less of a priority in the executive branch, despite occasional claims to the contrary.