PETA Calls for Charges in Illegal Gambling on Pigeon Races in Florida

Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Illicit Loot Passes Hands With Impunity While Thousands of Birds Pay the Ultimate Price

For Immediate Release:
April 15, 2013

David Perle 202-483-7382 

Tampa, Fla. — This morning, PETA sent an urgent letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement urging it immediately to launch a criminal investigation into two pigeon-racing clubs for running illegal high-stakes gambling operations. According to records of the Gulfcoast Homing Club (GHC)—the largest single pigeon-racing club in the U.S.—it pays out approximately $350,000 in its annual “Classic” race, which will be held in December. In 2004, the last time that the American Racing Pigeon Union (AU) held its annual convention in Florida—which it plans to do again in Tampa in November, hosted by the GHC—the payout exceeded $750,000 between these two races. PETA’s letter comes in the wake of charges filed in Oklahoma against three pigeon-race organizers—including the executive director of the AU—for felony commercial gambling following a PETA investigation.

“These clubs have been engaged in flagrant illegal gambling right under the noses of law-enforcement officials and have also been getting away with it for years,” says general counsel to PETA Jeff Kerr. “And the worst part is that they have even less regard for the pigeons—who die or are killed in massive numbers—than they do for the law.”

High-stakes pigeon racing isn’t only illegal, it’s also exceedingly cruel. PETA’s investigations of pigeon races across the U.S. have revealed that more than half of the birds often never make it back to their lofts or mates because of extreme weather, raptors, electric lines, foul play, and exhaustion. Birds who return but who consistently finish out of the money are typically killed by suffocation, drowning, or decapitation. One racer told PETA’s investigators that when a person starts out in pigeon racing, “The first thing you have to learn—how to kill pigeons.”

To view video footage from PETA’s pigeon-racing investigations, please click here. For more information, please visit

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind