This Week in Colorado History: Avian Controversy

The local humane society ordered the arrest of A. B. Daniels for shooting live pigeons in the fall of 1899. However, the Humane Society’s victory did not last long, and shortly thereafter, the Denver Rifle club returned to their habit of shooting live pigeons on their course. According to “The Colorado Transcript,” “This was looked upon as open acknowledgement of the final defeat of the society.”

However, in late January, 1900, the humane society resumed their battle. The society’s secretary, E.K. Whitehead, met with Denver District Attorney Jameson and explained the society’s position; “If men were maiming pigeons in opposition to the laws of this state it was the duty of the humane society to use its best energies to see that the laws are enforced.”

Colorado state law did not allow trap shooting, but an 1897 game law allowed pigeons to be shot as a skills test on the grounds of an organized club. The humane society argued that pigeons raised on farms for the purposes of target practice were not game, so the 1897 law was unconstitutional. An 1899 law repealed the 1897 law and did not offer any specific exemptions for shooting pigeons.

Whitehead stated, “I see no way to get around the conclusion that every man who engages in live pigeon shooting is violating the laws against cruelty to animals. If the district attorney’s office will take up the mater we will make the fight.” “The Colorado Transcript” theorized the issue was far from over and that pigeon shooting would not abate until the humane society succeeded “in making one case stick.”

The January 31, 1900, edition of “The Colorado Transcript” also left its readers with a bit of wisdom certainly relevant to an election year, “The man who ‘would rather be right than be president’ may never be either.”

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