one of the underscored
to go to that
Emergency Medical Service
penalty for fowl
"Looks like it's OK
to kill a pigeon out in Gilbert, but it's called cruel if you kill a cat,"
writes columnist David Leibowitz. "You know what I think -- pigeons
really get a bum rap in this country."
ducking it, pigeons get bum rap
by David Leibowitz
Sunday, October 27, 1996
[Gilbert, Arizona -] Clearly there's
a moral to the story, a point about our society that desperately needs
I'm speaking of the teenage sickos
of Gilbert, the five kids who turned our collective stomach for the past
few days. You know the ones -- the alleged cat and pigeon killers.
Their tale began two Thursdays back,
on the eve of the annual Highland-Gilbert football game. Three Highland
students thought it would be funny to kill a pair of cats as the story
goes, and hang them over at Gilbert, home of the Tigers. Meanwhile,
across town, two Gilbert kids thought it would be a hoot to shoot a pair
of pigeons in the back of the head then string the bird corpses up for
the Highland Hawks.
Hardy freakin' har har.
In both cases, we're looking at a
joke with all the inherent funniness of the J.D. Hayworth-Steve Owens race
for Congress, or the prospect of a job as Charlie Keating's new PR flack.
Sick, sick, sick, is what I mean.
We're also looking at a rather skewed
message to the citizenry.
See, the trio of accused cat killers
have been charged -- and rightfully so -- with cruelty to animals by the
Gilbert police. And the busted pigeon murderers, you ask?
The reasons for this inequity are
two, it would appear. First, the birds in question were pets of one
of the little delinquents, which gives them more leeway where committing
mayhem is concerned. Second, it seems that our pair of heroes have
legal precedent on their side.
"They won't prosecute," explains
Gilbert Detective Ken Pixel, "because shooting a pigeon in the back of
the head isn't cruel mistreatment.... That's the way the courts see
it.... It's really strange."
And I'll also say this: Pigeons,
our winged friends, get absolutely no respect. Not a whit.
This explains why I'm taking drastic
action on the subject of pigeons' rights. It would be easy to merely
moan and whine in print, but this story requires something a little extra,
something with oomph and a catchy nickname.
kind of bird besides the pigeon until
I was 13 years old. And I'm hardly alone -- listen to Dave Roth, president
of the Valley's Urban Wildlife Society and the proud owner of five pet
pigeons, including "Gordo," he of the three-foot wingspan.
I'm thinking a collective, one that
would lobby to see that pigeons get treated with all the respect usually
accorded those four-pawed head cases with tails. I'm thinking a pigeons'
I'm thinking People Opposed to Offing
You know -- POOP
Look, maybe you buy into the whole
"sky rat" rap on Columbia livia, that pigeons are a nasty, statue
defiling form of flying vermin, but we POOPers certainly don't think so.
Heck, I grew up in New York City -- I didn't even know there was another
Roth, President of the Urban Wildlife Society, shows off a few of the more
than 200 pigeons under his care.
"Pigeons are just like cats and
dogs. They're very good companion animals," says Roth. "After you
have them as pets, if you have half a conscience, you can't stand to see
what happens to them. When I watch TV at night, I have a pigeon or
two sitting on my lap, being very sweet and loving."
And there's Dr. Robert Ohmart, head
of Arizona State University's Center for Environmental Studies.
"They have a lot of redeeming qualities,"
says the professor. They bring avian life into our inner cities,
where the habitats are no longer present for native species. I think
they're an important part of having life around us."
Hey, forget all these opinions
-- allow me to baffle you with some little known pigeon stuff:
• Pigeon enthusiast Pablo Picasso
named his daughter Paloma, Spanish for pigeon.
• Famed researcher B.F. Skinner
proved that pigeons' learning abilities reflect those of higher animals,
• Back during World War I, a pigeon
named Cher Ami -- French for "dear friend" -- was credited with saving
an entire battalion of U.S. troops, despite having a leg shot off for its
trouble. Seems the bird flew across enemy lines bearing a message
that our boys were accidentally being shelled by Allied forces. Its
body -- along with the wooden leg the pigeon received as an honor -- can
be seen at the Smithsonian.
I kid you not.
Pigeons aren't all bad, understand,
and They definitely don't deserve a shot to the back of the head from some
prankster. Consider that the mission statement of POOP, my friends.
And consider this as well: Depending on the teens' prior records,
County Attorney Richard Romley may still be able to override the Gilbert
PD and file cruelty to animals charges against the accused pigeon killers.
Message to the top prosecutor:
Sir, I'd suggest you either join POOP or get off the pot.