PETA: Investigate college’s use of live eagle mascot, school cannot ‘molest’ birds for entertainment

  • Group claims Boston College's use of live eagles at football games is in violation of the Eagle Act
  • Cites provision which does not allow outside entities to 'molest' eagles for entertainment
  • School officials refute PETA claims, say safety of eagles is first priority

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has urged the federal government to launch an investigation into Boston College’s (BC) use of live eagle mascots at home football games, citing a federal law which does not allow any entity to "molest" the birds for entertainment.

PETA claims Boston College’s use of live eagle mascots at football games violates federal law.

Experts from Zoo New England and the Bird Sanctuary handle the eagles at games and provide educational programming about wildlife preservation to fans.

PETA claims the utilization of the birds for entertainment purposes at football games goes beyond the limits of the permit these groups possess which qualify them to handle the eagles.

Delcianna Winders, a lawyer representing PETA, sent a letter on Monday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that claims BC is in violation of the “letter and spirit” of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

“Any contract allowing the college to molest the eagle for the purpose of promoting a sports team would therefore amount to an illegal ‘assignment or transfer' of the permit," wrote Winders.

“Additionally, as detailed further in the appendix, any permit allowing the exhibition of an eagle at games is entirely inconsistent with the Eagle Act and the MBTA.”

The Eagle Act and MBTA are federal provisions which protect eagles and other migratory birds.  Organizations found in violation of the Eagle Act can be fined up to $200,000, and the individuals’ responsible can face up to a year in prison.

BC made the decision late this August to use live eagle mascots for the first time in forty seven years at all home football games for the 2013 season.

BC spokesman Jack Dunn refuted PETA’s claims in a Monday interview with Boston Magazine.

“Contrary to assertions from PETA, no part of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, or Migratory Bird Act, was ever violated,” he said. “The World Bird Sanctuary has both federal and state permits to have the eagle in its possession and to conduct the educational display. The safety and well being of the eagle remains the priority of all groups involved."

FWS officials did not respond to Campus Reform’s requests for comment in time for publication on whether they will launch an investigation into the matter.

Follow the authors of this article on Twitter: @AEdwardsCRO and @TimPDion

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