‘Take Joe off death row: MP begs for pigeon pardon
A Victorian politician is pleading for a "pigeon pardon" to save the racing bird which flew all the way from the US to Victoria and is now set to be killed because he poses a biosecurity threat.
Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick is calling on the federal government to spare the plucky pigeon, christened "Joe", who is believed to have been blown off course while racing and made a remarkable 15,000km journey from Alabama to an Officer backyard.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley also called for compassion for American Joe, saying while he hadn't been formally briefed on the case he had heard of the pigeon's plight.
"As I understood it, it was the Commonwealth's quarantine officials who had indicated a very short time that Joe's got left on this planet," Mr Foley said.
"I would urge the Commonwealth's quarantine officials to show a little bit of compassion."
Mr Meddick said Joe, who was named after US president-elect Joe Biden, should be allowed to go into quarantine and then live in Australia as a free bird.
"I am calling on the federal government to offer a pigeon pardon for Joe," he said.
"Should the federal government allow Joe to live, I am happy to seek assurances that he is not a flight risk.
"My message to the federal government is this: Take Joe off death row.
"Surely the federal government has larger issues to deal with right now than death sentences for pigeons?"
"I know I speak for many Australians who want justice for Joe."
But Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack's heart was harder when it came to the pigeon's future.
While he was not aware of "Joe's plight or flight or future" and wished the pigeon good luck, he said the bird could not be afforded special treatment if he posed a threat to Australia's biosecurity.
"If Joe has come in a way that has not met our strict biosecurity measures, then bad luck, Joe. Either fly home or face the consequences," Mr McCormack said.
Joe landed in the backyard of Kevin Celli-Bird - in Officer on Melbourne's outskirts - on Boxing Day.
It was nearly two months after he disappeared from a race in the United States.
While it remains a mystery as to how Joe ended up in Australia, thousands of kilometres from his home, Mr Celli-Bird suspects he hitched a ride on a cargo ship.
When the pigeon first arrived it was weak, allowing him to pick it up, Mr Celli-Bird said.
"That's when I noticed a tag on its leg," he said, adding it revealed Joe's owner lived in Montgomery, Alabama, in America's deep south.
"Maybe if he was called Trump he would receive diplomatic immunity," he said.
Mr Celli-Bird said he was contacted by a government department on Thursday and asked to catch the bird so it could be euthanised.
"I said I can only get half a metre close but can't catch him anymore because he is back to full health," he said.
Mr Celli-Bird said he was advised any attempt to stop the bird's euthanasia would be met with penalties.
"I understand why they have to do it but I don't see why they can't capture him and check for diseases or why they can't contact the owners and send him back to America to let him live out his days," he said.
Originally published as 'Take Joe off death row: MP begs for pigeon pardon