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4 Charged In Connection With Deaths Of Poisoned Pigeons In Downtown Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Pigeons are a common sight in downtown Pittsburgh and it was these birds that caught a member of Humane Action Pittsburgh by surprise back in November.

The woman, who didn't want to be named, noticed around 10 pigeons either dead or dying on streets and sidewalks near the Frick Building. Some of the birds were even convulsing, so she called Animal Care and Control for help. Spotted on the ground close to the birds was corn.

Necropsies were done and inside the stomachs of those pigeons was the active ingredient of Avitrol, which Shannon Dickerson with Humane Action Pittsburgh says is illegal.

"It is extremely dangerous poison they used. It's a neurological poison that causes total shutdown of the neurological systems and is highly toxic," said Dickerson.

Humane Action Pittsburgh is an organization with the goal of protecting animals.

Dickerson said in the beginning of 2020, an ordinance was passed in the city of Pittsburgh that makes it illegal to trap or harm pigeons.

Now, four people have been charged. They are Allen Zimmerman and Randall Hoffmaster with bird control services near Reading, Pennsylvania. Also charged are Kelly Derbish and Francisco Escalante with Draxxhall Realty, the company that manages the Frick Building. Court documents say Escalante hired the pest control company because the birds were causing problems.

KDKA went to Escalante's home to see if he would share his side of the story, but the person who answered wouldn't talk.

Draxxhall Realty issued this statement:

"Draxxhall Management Corporation (managers of the Frick Building) contracted with a licensed third party pest control company to assist it in controlling a pigeon infestation at the Frick Building. At all times, Draxxhall believed that its vendor was operating in accordance with the applicable laws, rules and regulations. Draxxhall vigorously disputes that any of its employees were knowingly involved in any criminal activity, and looks forward to vigorously defending the charges filed in this matter."

Dickerson said this chemical can harm more than just pigeons.

"Any animal that eats that bird is going to be affected by it as well and poisoned," said Draxxhall.

Dickerson said the best way to deter pigeons is by removing the source of the problem, which is usually food.

KDKA also reached out to Bird Control Services. They said they have no comment.

All four people are facing multiple charges, including aggravated cruelty to animals.

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