Brooklyn DA looks at Animal Planet pigeon-racing series
The Brooklyn DA's office says it's looking into Animal Planet's new series taking Mike Tyson and his pet pigeons "inside the intensely competitive and bizarrely fascinating world of pigeon racing" after getting a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals saying the show violates New York law.
The Silver Spring, Md.-based cable network announced last week it would begin filming "Taking on Tyson" next month in Brooklyn, where the pigeon-loving pugilist keeps his pets. The show is scheduled to debut early next year.
Days later, PETA wrote to the Brooklyn DA's office asking it to shut down the production.
"We have received the letter from PETA and we are looking into it," Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for the DA's office, told The TV Column Monday.
In the letter, PETA general counsel Jeffrey Kerr notes that, in addition to the general prohibition on gambling, the New York Legislature has explicitly outlawed '[a]ll racing or trials of speed between horses and other animals for any bet, stake or reward' unless explicitly permitted.
"This prohibition includes racing or trials of speed between pigeons conducted for the purpose of betting or where any reward is granted to the winning trainer," Kerr wrote.
Kerr noted Tyson "will undoubtedly be paid for starring in the series."
"This compensation may be deemed to be a stake or reward for the pigeon racing on which the show is based," in violation of New York law, he added.
"Paying Mike Tyson to be in a reality show that is involved in pigeon racing is providing a reward -- directly contrary to the clear terms of the law," Kerr told The TV Column.
"We have all seen shows that expose the horrific worlds of dog fighting and cock fighting, but those shows are going to bat for animals. That's the kind of show Animal Planet should focus on...rather than this ill-conceived idea of a reality series."
"They're doing this reality show and encouraging him to race pigeons in what they themselves call 'the competitive world of pigeon racing'. That world includes gambling and they should not be engaged in anything that facilitates, or publicizes, or glamorizes that illegal behavior."
Animal Planet said in a statement Monday "there have never been any plans for wagering on the pigeon races" adding, "rest assured, all of the pigeons that we will feature in the program are cherished and respected by their owners"; in its statement, Animal Planet called the pigeons "beautiful creatures."
But a network rep also noted that while some media outlets have come down on the show since it was first announced, the network had found a champion in the web site Gawker, which presented a "different perspective" from the media herd.
In its coverage of the Animal Planet/PETA kerfuffle, Gawker wrote: "Don't worry PETA, Tyson's going to take fine care of those disgusting rats with wings."
So much for "beautiful creatures."
Lisa de Moraes
March 22, 2010; 11:48 PM ET
Categories: TV News
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