Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Coop Kohli
AU Lakes Zone Director


I have a club in my zone that really knew how to hurt me.  They told me the AU, to them, was only a good place to buy bands, and that if their club could buy seamless bands cheaper from the IF, they were going to leave the AU. 

They could save money, they figured!  

Now, even our brothers in the IF need new members and more membership dues, and it may surprise you that Tom Coletti works closely with IF President Richy Smith whenever he can.  Furthermore, we certainly don't want to deprive relief to any of our comrades in the sport, but thank God, not all of us think this way.  Even though some of these guys are my friends that I respect as fanciers, I question their reasoning and long term vision.  I was exasperated to learn just how uninformed and unmotivated they were about the important past work done, and the important current work being done without fanfare, by the AU.  (Therein may lie the problem).


You may not have known, but prior to 9/11, the United States Postal Service (USPS), I am told, had access to its own aircraft, and could schedule live animal shipments to anywhere, pretty much at any time they wanted.  Shipping pigeons was a no-brainer.  However, when animal rights activists began to pressure major airline CEO’s, the USPS also grew cautious.  Then, 9/11 happened, and air travel and shipping restrictions tightened up overnight.  Compounding the problem at the time, was the USPS decision to begin using only commercial airlines.

Greg Smith (a Washington attorney/lobbyist hired by the AU), with one of our former NW Zone Directors, Dr. Gary Braden, accompanied Karen Clifton to DC to visit with Senators, with a goal to encourage the continued shipping of pigeons through the USPS.  

Our small group sat down with the legal team of the USPS, where the USPS acknowledged that animal rights groups were our biggest source of difficulty.
We all know that during that time, the ability to ship pigeons became frustratingly difficult.  A fancier would have to call a specific post office in his area to secure a shipping permit, and the birds could only be shipped at specific times, from specific locations.  In my case, I had to drive a two hour round-trip to Akron, Ohio.

Concurrently, the AU began visiting local United Parcel Service (UPS) representatives to determine if there might be a viable alternative.  A regional UPS VP saw potential profit, and ran the idea up the flagpole to the UPS national office in Atlanta.  (The AU provided rough estimates of how many fanciers there were in the US, and estimates of how many birds were shipped, and what the potential total number of shipments might be, then had pigeons shipped to the UPS office so their people could see first hand that shipping pigeons was safe, and that it worked through the UPS system.)  Unfortunately, the UPS legal team expected future issues to develop, so shipping for pigeon fanciers was denied.

The AU continued reporting shipping problems on behalf of its members to the USPS reps in DC that Karen Clifton had cultivated.  On some occasions the USPS commercial air logistics coordinator in DC was able to correct a situation so members could ship birds, but on other occasions, nothing could be done, and birds could not be shipped to certain locations.

The AU repeatedly encouraged the USPS to identify another source so the shipping process could improve for AU members.  Finally, the USPS began working with Federal Express, who had a representative visit an Oklahoma breeder (CBS) to inspect our pigeon shipping containers, and the actual shipping process.  It was subsequently determined that FedEX would carry live birds for the USPS, and AU members have had better service ever since.


In retrospect, without the background work of the AU, where would we be as a sport, if the AU had “only sold bands”?   What was that USPS effort worth to the sport?  What effect would a lack of AU involvement have had on club fund-raising if young bird futurities all over this country had been unable to receive OOA birds?  Extend that question to one-loft races? 

The same question could be asked about the AU’s work on:
  • Winspeed which has been used by both national organizations for over 25 years;
  • on the AU’s crown-jewel, the National Data Base;
  • on the nationwide PR effort associated with lost bird recovery;
  • with the veterinarians in the USDA on Avian Influenza research;
  • or on perhaps our most difficult, no-win, pursuit, the AU Infractions Committee, as it interprets club constitution and by-laws in membership dispute settlements? 
  • In Ohio and Michigan, how could any club not be aware of the effort and funding the AU put into reducing the Avian Influenza restrictions when the AU retained Dr. Glyde Marsh to guide us through that effort. 
  • And, what about the Washington lobbying effort, and the push-back and monitoring of PETA?
  • Does anyone remember the $50,000 the AU spent fighting the city of Chicago on ordinance issues?

Thinking about it seriously, it is apparent to me, that my wife and I can’t eat one Saturday morning breakfast in an Ohio Bob Evans restaurant for the cost of my AU annual membership. 

Next to my shipping fees, it has always been the best investment in pigeon racing.  My conclusion: the AU needs to spend more time telling members what it does for them.