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PETA slams group behind pigeons in MAGA hats as ‘bozos’

An animal rights organization is not amused with a recent stunt involving MAGA-hat-wearing pigeons, calling the group behind it “bozos” for gluing the headpieces to the birds.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals put out a statement on its website condemning the group P.U.T.I.N., which attached red Make America Great Again hats to about two dozen pigeons and a Donald Trump hairpiece to one. The group then released them into downtown Las Vegas.

“These bozos aren’t scoring any points,” the statement read. “Stupid pranks like this one are serious business that can interfere with pigeons’ ability to fly, see, and avoid predators, so it’s no surprise that at least one pigeon used in a similar stunt has already died.

“PETA is no stranger to provocative protests,” the statement reads, “but whatever your cause or political affiliation, pigeons should be left in peace.”

P.U.T.I.N., which stands for Pigeons, United to Interfere Now, said it did the pigeon release to show support for President Donald Trump, who has been in and out of Las Vegas much of the week. The self-proclaimed “underground radical group” agreed to speak with the Review-Journal and show the pigeons on the condition that individual members not be identified.

In response to PETA’s statement, the group’s leader, who goes by the name Coo Hand Luke, said the animal rights organization should thank P.U.T.I.N. for turning the animals into a viral sensation.

“This is a species that gets zero attention or respect, let alone international news play,” Luke said. “Rather than complain, we encourage PETA to use their platform and resources to support Lofty Hopes, an organization we highly admire for their efforts in pigeon protection and care. We’d also like to kindly remind PETA that when it comes to politics, we’re all animals, and their choice to call P.U.T.I.N. ‘stupid’ and label us ‘bozos’ is highly indicative of that.”

Mariah Hillman, co-founder of Lofty Hopes, a Las Vegas-based pigeon rescue group, appreciated P.U.T.I.N.’s praise and said she’d be willing to meet with the group to better understand its mission.

“I think that’s awesome,” Hillman said. “They said that they rescued these pigeons, so I’m really interested in meeting with them and possibly working together to rescue more pigeons. I would love to sit down with them, because they apparently have an appreciation for them since they rescued them.”

Lofty Hopes has been searching for the birds and has spotted four of them downtown, noting that one bird’s red hat had fallen off. The bird rescuers were unable to find the hat.

“You can still see the white glue on its head and some missing feathers,” Hillman said.

P.U.T.I.N. said it used eyelash glue, which is used to attach eyelash extensions, to affix the hats to the pigeons, saying that it is less harsh than super glue.

Stephanie Bell, senior director of cruelty casework in PETA’s cruelty investigations department, said it doesn’t matter what was used to keep the hats on the birds’ heads because no method is acceptable.

“They are not meant to wear hats, and we can’t really speak to the toxicity of the glue used, regardless of any adhesive or putting any accessory onto an animal is cruel and poses risks,” Bell said. “It’s not something anybody should be doing. Animals shouldn’t be utilized for any political expression.”

P.U.T.I.N. said it cared for the pigeons by bathing and feeding them and tending to any ailments they had when found. Bell responded that anyone who actually cared for the animals wouldn’t put hats on them.

“Putting hats on birds is an activity that’s cruel and has possible ramifications,” Bell said. “While it may be true these individuals care about birds, that activity is not something people would do who care about wildlife. It’s harmful and distressing behavior.”

Bell said she is worried that the attention paid to recent instances in which pigeons had hats glued on their heads — including one case in December in Las Vegas involving cowboy hats and another last month in Reno involving a bird wearing a sombrero — could prompt others to jump on the bandwagon.

“We always worry about copycats in situations like this,” she said. “It’s important … that we make it very clear that the behavior is unacceptable.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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