(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2007) A federal magistrate judge in Providence, Rhode Island fined The Little Rhody Beagle Club Incorporated and its former president $28,144 for illegally using pesticides, guns and steel leg-hold traps to kill birds and other animals that were preying on the club’s stock of rabbits, which are used to train beagles. According to a report in the Providence Journal, the charges resulted from a joint investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Police of the state Department of Environmental Management.
Members of the dog club were chiefly targeting birds of prey, which they say ate the stocked rabbits. Most of the other, non-target birds, all of them quite common, died from insecticide poisoning. None of the birds the club killed are listed on an endangered species list. However, the birds are still protected, according to Tom Healy, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He explains that virtually all birds in North America, including the ubiquitous robin and the squawking crow, are migratory and fall under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The club, which is located in Warwick, and its former president, William Forward, pleaded guilty to legally killing migratory birds and illegally using a pesticide to kill birds and other wildlife. Such misuse of pesticides is not uncommon. Just as disturbing is the fact that even when pesticides are used properly, the results can still be deadly to wildlife (as well as human health). Agricultural uses of pesticides have been attributed to the depletion of bee colonies, butterflies, birds, fish and other species. Pets and wildlife are also killed in urban and suburban areas by ingesting pesticides intended to kill target species, such as rodents. Secondary poisoning (when a predator preys on a poisoned animal) can also harm animals.
According to prosecutors, Mr. Forward used carbofuran in various ways, injecting it into eggs and placing it in carcasses of squirrels that were nailed to trees. U.S. Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond accepted the terms of a plea agreement and placed the club and former president, Mr. Forward, on probation for one year. The judge fined the club $18,144 and Mr. Forward $10,000. The club was also ordered to pay $1, 855 in veterinary bills for a neighbor’s dog that became ill after coming in contact with the pesticide. Judge Almond said that the club created a potential hazard for children by putting a highly toxic pesticide and illegal traps on a site that is partially surrounded by a waist high wire fence. The judge said that the club’s actions were “amateurish and lacking in forethought and a desire to find out how to do it the right way.” Judge Almond continued, by saying that the club was “altering nature to suit its own needs” and that the birds and other animals killed were “innocent victims.”
As part of the agreement, $15,000 of the club’s fine and $7,500 of Mr. Forward’s fine will go to the North American Wetlands Conservation Account managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to the club’s lawyer, the club has contacted experts for advice on how to deal with predators without resorting to pesticides. After the court session, Thomas Healy, regional special agent for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said, “The message here today is if you have problem wildlife, there are corrected ways and wrong ways to deal with it. And misuse of pesticides is definitely the wrong way.”