WOLCOTT — Someone discarded 145 living pigeons this winter the way one throws out an empty disposable coffee cup — by tossing them into a trash dumpster.
The night caretaker at the northbound Interstate 65 rest area in White County found the first 57 birds in the middle of December as he took the trash out, said Kim Hoover of the Hoots to Howls Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in rural Pulaski County. Some of the birds trapped inside boxes died, she said.
She took the birds and found homes for most of them, keeping the blind and crippled birds at the rehabilitation center.
Then on Feb. 28, the caretaker found more boxes of birds in the same dumpster at the same rest area.
“Same mozzarella cheese boxes. Same person’s name and number on the leg ban,” she said.
The first group of birds found were standing in feces that were caked to their feet and matted in their feathers, Hoover said. It appeared they’d been in the dumpster for a while and were in poor health.
The second group was found in better condition and did not have trash piled on top of the boxes, indicating that they had not been in the dumpster that long, Hoover said.
That person’s name on the leg band is Bahman Ghassab from Dublin, Ohio, Hoover said. The bands also had a telephone number to reach Ghassab. The Journal & Courier called that number on Wednesday, but it is no longer a working number.
But after the find in December, Hoover said one of her associates did call the number, and Ghassab answered.
“He said he sold some birds to someone in Florida and in Illinois,” Hoover said, “and he would not give any more info than that.
“When asked why would you sell sick starving and injured pigeons and better yet why would someone buy them in this condition, the conversation ended,” Hoover said.
The Journal & Courier contacted John DeCarlo Jr., president of the National Pigeon Association. He checked the association’s membership list, and Ghassab is not a member.
“These birds don’t fly,” Hoover said.
The Journal & Courier texted photos of the birds to DeCarlo, who is in California.
“I don’t know why they don’t fly,” he said, noting this particular breed of pigeon is the Iranian high fliers.
The Iranian high fliers are capable of flight, unlike the one particular breed that Hoover mistakenly was told the rescued birds belonged to, DeCarlo said.
The birds might not fly because they are sick or are under fed or are under conditioned, DeCarlo said. Or they might have been altered so they can’t fly, he added.
Someone told Hoover the birds were likely part of an illegal gambling ring, but that doesn’t seem likely, according to DeCarlo.
The only gambling in the pigeon hobby is among racing pigeons, and these are not racing pigeons, he said.
The flightless pigeon breed is known as parlor rollers. They have been genetically bred not to fly, and when they are nervous or excited, they roll, Decarlo said. There is a competition among parlor rollers to see whose bird can roll the furthest, but it’s not cruel because this is the natural way these birds behave, according to several pigeon experts interviewed Wednesday by the Journal & Courier.
Everyone interviewed Wednesday was incensed by the way these birds were discarded.
Hoover said no one seems interested in investigating it as a criminal case.
“From what I’m told, they’re not pets; they’re not farm animals, so nobody does anything,” she said.
National Pigeon Association Secretary/Treasurer Tim Heidrich of Georgia doesn’t see why it couldn’t be prosecuted.
“To me, it’s like animal cruelty,” Heidrich said. “There are ways to get rid of them without being cruel about it.”
“There are quite a few small shows,” he said. “You can go to these things and sell them — give them away to the kids.”
DeCarlo suggested giving unwanted pigeons to 4Hers so they can learn the hobby and show them.
Finding so many birds thrown away begs the question of whether other birds met with a similar fate only went undiscovered at other locations.
“We don’t know if this is the first time,” Hoover said. “Is it happening at other rest parks? We don’t know.
“I just wish he’d stop. These birds don’t deserve to be thrown out.”
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