Three species object to Sunday shootin'
By Eric Heyl, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, October 23, 2011
This could get coyote-ugly for state taxpayers.
Although legislators finally are taking aim at Pennsylvania's senseless restrictions on Sunday hunting, it already might be too late to avoid a lawsuit over the prohibition.
Enacted in 1873, the hunting ban is one of the last vestiges of the state's antiquated blue laws that severely limited Sunday activities out of deference to the Deity. Back then, people were hauled away in handcuffs just for grocery shopping or working on The New York Times crossword.
It's long been permissible to pick up a crossword dictionary or pot roast on Sunday, although doing both at the same time is not recommended. But the Elmer Fudd-like stalking of rabbits, raccoons, squirrels and other rascally creatures has remained verboten.
That soon could change. A bill has been introduced that would permit Sunday hunting, and lawmakers just released a study suggesting tangible financial benefits exist in allowing Bambi to be blown to bits on Sunday.
Expanding the current roster of creatures that can be harvested that day beyond the predatory fox and coyote, and the crop-destroying crow, could generate $804 million annually in economic activity, according to the report.
That's one significant reason for relaxing Sunday hunting restrictions. Another one is attempting to stave off the aforementioned litigation.
The lawsuits wouldn't come from hunters long frustrated by their inability to indulge in their harmless pursuit on Sunday, but from a group with an even greater interest in the matter: foxes, coyotes and crows.
You think coyotes across the state didn't howl when they heard news accounts of the legislative study and the sickening realization dawned on them?
"What?" they probably asked incredulously. "You mean to tell us we've spent decades of Sundays running for our lives while groundhogs have been able to put their paws up on the table, open a bag of chips and watch the Steelers game?"
Lawyers probably already have flocked to the forest to persuade these aggrieved creatures they should sue the state for violating federal equal employment opportunity laws.
Seems likely that these employees of Pennsylvania -- which literally means "Penn's woods" -- would agree.
Federal law prohibits discrimination in the use of company facilities, which in this case happens to be the outdoors. The state gives most critters free run of its facilities on Sundays, while others are penalized with potential death if they use them.
How fair is that?
It's uncertain what the animals could win if they prevailed. Language in the EEOC law suggests they could be financially compensated, or the state could be forced to take unspecified actions to make the discrimination victims "whole."
That could prove difficult, however, if the victims are lying in pieces on the ground.
State lawmakers should lift the hunting prohibition and pronto, before a discrimination complaint is filed on behalf of the foxes, coyotes and crows.
They aren't guaranteed to win a legal action.
But if the law isn't rescinded, I bet they take a shot at it.
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