Judge overseeing pigeon shoot lawsuit grants plaintiffs' request for extension to respond to defendant's dismissal motion

By Jon Campisi | Jul 6, 2012

The federal judge overseeing the case involving water quality advocates suing a local

sporting club over its controversial pigeon shoots has granted a request by the plaintiffs for an extension of time by which to respond to the defendant’s motion to dismiss the litigation.

In a recent order, U.S. District Judge Juan R. Sanchez, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, gave The Delaware Riverkeeper Network until July 17 to respond to the motion to dismiss that had been filed by The Philadelphia Gun Club last month.

Lawyers for the gun club, which is based in Bensalem, Pa., had filed for dismissal of the suit in mid-June on the grounds that the plaintiffs’ claims that the club’s activities are tainting the Delaware River are false.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network and its head, Maya K. Van Rossum, filed a federal lawsuit against the sporting organization in March alleging that the club’s live pigeon shoots are hurting the waterway.

The plaintiffs claim that both the pigeon carcasses and materials from spent ammunition are poisoning the Delaware River; they also claim the shoots endanger those who recreationally use the body of water that separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey.

In their motion to dismiss, however, attorneys for the gun club disagree with the plaintiffs’ contention that the discharge of firearms constitutes an illegal act under the federal Clean Water Act, and subject to permitting requirements of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System.

Gun club lawyers wrote in their dismissal request that the plaintiff’s are mischaracterizing the “occasional traverse of non-toxic shotgun pellets and the occasional dropping of pigeons into the Delaware River as ‘pollution.’”

In a June 21 letter to Judge Sanchez, attorney Elizabeth K. Brown, plaintiffs’ counsel, requested the extension to July 17 to respond to the defendant’s dismissal motion, writing that it is needed to accommodate the work schedules of herself and her co-counsel, Nicholas B. Patton.

The request was unopposed by the gun club.

In his order granting the request, Sanchez also directed the parties to participate in a status conference on July 30 during which oral arguments will be held on the defendant’s dismissal motion.

The case is no doubt being closely watched by animal rights advocates, who have for years attempted to get Pennsylvania officials to ban the practice of shooting live pigeons for sport.

The commonwealth apparently remains one of the only places left in the nation that allows live pigeon shoots by law.

In a late March Delaware Riverkeeper Network news release issued shortly after the suit’s filing, Van Rossum said while the case is about water pollution, it’s also designed to raise awareness of the “moral issues” involved with “how we are treating defenseless birds who are subjected to unspeakable cruelty as a result of the ongoing events.”

The gun club’s property in Bensalem abuts the Delaware River, hence the claim that pigeon carcasses and ammunition materials are falling into the waterway.

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