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What is the RSPCA position on pigeon racing?

Article ID: 233
Last updated: 09 Nov, 2017
Revision: 3
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Pigeon racing poses many welfare risks. Racing pigeons may be susceptible to predator attack from birds of prey or other animals during the race. The races usually cover very large distances (several hundred kilometres) which places high physical demands on the pigeons. In order to be able to cope with such races, pigeons need to receive adequate physical training and be in excellent body condition prior to the race commencing. RSPCA Australia advocates the regulation of pigeon racing competitions to prevent races from being held over excessive distances, in adverse weather conditions or over unsuitable terrain. It is believed that a number of birds do not return due to going off course, being affected by inclement weather or falling prey to predators. The fate of these birds is unknown but given that they have been maintained in an aviary environment and that they may be in unfamiliar territory, they are likely to face significant challenges to survive.

Migrating birds including racing pigeons pose a major biosecurity risk in relation to the spread of infectious bird diseases. As racing pigeons travel large distances, they may carry diseases from one geographical region to another.

Issues of overcrowding and housing management also need to be addressed. Codes of practice for the keeping and racing of pigeons do currently exist, however these are voluntary and therefore not enforceable by state or territory governments or the RSPCA. 

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