House member seeks to stop turkey drop at Arkansas festival

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Concerned that federal regulators don't have the power to stop the dropping of live turkeys over an Arkansas festival, a lawmaker from Las Vegas is suggesting that Congress step in to ban the practice.

Democratic Rep. Dina Titus told the House Rules Committee on Tuesday that while the annual Yellville Turkey Trot is reminiscent of a 1970s television comedy, maiming animals is serious business.

"You can have the festival without having this horrendous activity," Titus told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Titus, who is on an aviation-related subcommittee, proposed an amendment to a Federal Aviation Administration rules package but it was not sent to the House floor. She intends to raise it again in a separate bill.

"The issue my amendment addresses sounds like it comes straight out of an episode of a TV sitcom," Titus told the panel Tuesday. She cited a 1978 "WKRP in Cincinnati" episode in which turkeys dropped from a helicopter during a radio station promotion plummet to the ground rather than flutter away.

"As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly," the character Arthur Carlson says in the episode.

Titus told the panel most turkeys dropped from low-flying planes at Yellville each October are injured or killed. "Wild turkeys roost in trees but they spend most of their lives on the ground and they fly only short distances at a time," she testified.

Meanwhile, a new sponsor for the October festival stepped up Wednesday to replace the local Chamber of Commerce, which backed out after 72 years because of the turkey drop controversy. The Mid-Marion County Rotary Club has one condition: there will be no live turkeys on or above the festival grounds.

"We have a lot of people who enjoy the Turkey Trot and want to see it continue," the club's treasurer, Travis Doshier, said Wednesday.

Titus exchanged letters with the FAA over the turkey drop, with the agency confirming to her that pilots who dropped birds over Yellville were not breaking any laws.

"While there may be objection to the event in Yellville based on animal welfare concerns, the FAA does not regulate animal welfare," acting FAA Administrator Daniel K. Elwell wrote.

Titus told the agency her proposal would grant an exemption for government-authorized animal drops, such as when fisheries stock ponds and lakes inaccessible by tanker trucks.

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