Turkey Shoots: Cruel and Cowardly

In 1995, SHARK set up surveillance cameras on the property of the Lone Pine Sportsmens' Club in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania in advance of a live turkey shoot. This was a canned hunt in which de-beaked and de-toed factory farmed turkeys had their legs put in stocks before they were placed on top of tires. The hapless victims were then shot at by goons who paid five dollars for an opportunity to shoot totally helpless victims. 

SHARK’s video made news not only in Pennsylvania, but in an episode of the nationally syndicated news serialHard Copy, which also exposed PA pigeon shoots. The public outrage at this cowardly event caused the gun club to permanently swear off live animal shoots (Read about this here), but there were no criminal cruelty charges against shoot organizers.

The story below reports another turkey shoot busted by humane officer and longtime animal protector Keith Mohler, working for New York-based Farm Sanctuary. Although animals have a very long way to go before they are given the respect they deserve, this story is a hopeful sign that things can and are moving in the right direction. 

Club pleads no contest for using live turkeys as archery targets

March 09, 2007
Associated Press

MANHEIM, Pa. - A sportsmen's club pleaded no contest Friday to charges that it violated animal-cruelty laws by using dozens of live turkeys as targets in an archery contest. 

The Elstonville Sportsmen's Association was fined $400 and ordered to pay court costs for eight summary violations involving the cruel treatment of animals and offering live animals as prizes in a contest.

Authorities said about 40 domestic turkeys were killed in the Sept. 9 contest. 

Participants paid $12 for three attempts to shoot at the birds, which were secured to straw bales at their feet, but able to flap their wings. Archers who drew blood won the birds, authorities said.

The club was charged after a Humane Society officer working undercover as a club member's guest took photographs of the action and reported it to state police.

Since the event, the club has elected new leaders who have adopted a rule forbidding the use of "any living entity" as a target, the club said in a statement issued through its attorney.

"Although we did not set out to cruelly mistreat the animals involved nor did we intentionally violate the laws of the Commonwealth, we have chosen to plead 'no contest' ... in order to put this matter behind us and focus on restoring our reputation as responsible citizens and sportsmen," the club said. 

Christine Wilson, a Lancaster County assistant district attorney, said she hoped the fine imposed by District Judge John C. Winters would deter the club from holding similar contests in the future. 

"The club's conduct was egregious that day, and they've now been held accountable," she said. 

The undercover Humane Society officer, Keith Mohler, said the club's plea is "an acknowledgment of guilt and responsibility for unacceptable and illegal behavior." 

NOTE: Below are comments from Farm Sanctuary regarding the legal resolution and fine imposed by the judge: 
Assistant D.A. Wilson stated, "The club's conduct was egregious on that day and they have now been held accountable for their actions." Wilson requested the court impose the maximum fine of $750 for the cruelty citations and $250 for the live animals as prizes citations; however, Judge Winters elected to impose the minimum fine of $50 for each count.
Farm Sanctuary's Humane Officer Keith Mohler stated,
"This case sets a precedent that the gutless acts of animal cruelty perpetrated by the Elstonville Sportsmen's Association are in fact illegal. With full support from the District Attorney's office and local law enforcement, we know that wanton animal cruelty will not stand in Lancaster County. Anyone seeking to gain amusement from the torture of innocent creatures will be prosecuted and brought to justice."

From the Lancaster New Era, a Pennsylvania newspaper: 

Sportsmen to fight cruelty charges for turkey shoot

By Ad Crable
Jan 31, 2007 

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. - A Lancaster County sportsmen's club charged with animal cruelty after a turkey shoot will fight the charges in court, a club official says. 

"We have retained attorneys and we have every confidence we're going to win this," Mark Giovengo, a board member of the 2,000-member Elstonville Sportsmen's Association on Pinch Road in Rapho Township, said Tuesday. 

The case is garnering worldwide attention and is being viewed in some quarters an an animal rights versus hunting rights showdown. 

Last week, a local humane officer with the New York-based animal-protection group Farm Sanctuary brought charges based on a Sept. 9 event at the club in which adults and youths allegedly shot arrows at live turkeys tethered to hay bales. 

Keith Mohler, of Mountville, said he was called to the turkey shoot by a disgusted club member. Mohler said that after witnessing turkeys being shot and wounded, he called state police. 

The event was shut down and Mohler filed four counts of "cruel ill treatment" and four counts of offering live animals as prizes in a contest.

State law prohibits the use of live animals as prizes, except fish, Mohler said. 

In an interview this week, Mohler said the turkeys were not killed humanely. 

"None of the ones I saw shot were killed instantly," he said. "They all flapped and squawked."

The club's Giovengo called the charges "propaganda" and "inaccurate at best." 

A hearing on the charges is expected to be set soon before Magisterial District Judge John C. Winters, according to Christie Wilson, an assistant district attorney with the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office.

The case has been widely reported in the media, with stories appearing on CNN and in newspapers from England to Taiwan.

An employee of Farm Sanctuary, Mohler was appointed by the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas to enforce crime codes that deal with cruelty to animals. 

Unsportsmanlike Behavior Results in Cruelty Charges

courtesy Farm Sanctuary

The Elstonville Sportsmen's Association, 3133 Pinch Road, Manheim, Pa. has been cited with eight counts of cruelty to animals as a result of charges filed on January 22, 2007 in District Court.

Charges were filed by Officer Keith Mohler of the Farm Sanctuary of Pennsylvania and stem from an event held at the club's facility on September 9, 2006 during which domestic turkeys were staked to straw bales and used as live targets during a bow and arrow shooting contest.

The club was cited for eight violations of the Pennsylvania Cruelty to Animals Statutes including four counts of cruel ill treatment and four counts of offering live animals as prizes in a contest.

Officer Mohler stated: "This case is about preventing wanton and unnecessary cruelty and upholding a basic humane ethic. This matter involves certain individuals seeking amusement from the senseless torture of animals. It was unnecessary, unsportsmanlike, and perhaps the most gutless act of cruelty I've seen."

The prosecution of the case will be handled by Assistant District Attorney Christie Wilson of the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office. 

Lancaster Club Charged

By Brent Burkey NY Daily Record/Sunday News
Jan 30, 2007

Lancaster-based Elstonville Sportsman's Association has been charged with violating animal cruelty laws in hosting a turkey shoot in September 2006 in which about 40 domestic turkeys were killed. The turkeys were staked to bales of straw and used as targets for an archery competition.

When contestants drew blood within the allotted three shots, they won the birds, which were then butchered.

According to the office of District Judge John C. Winters, the club has not responded to eight citations.

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