A new animal cruelty law outlaws the killing of any animal not regulated by theN.C. Wildlife Commission.
Farmer John Malloy challenged the law as unconstitutional, and a Superior Court judge in Granville County agreed with him Thursday.
Judge James Spencer granted a temporary injunction allowing Malloy to continue the Dogwood Invitational, his annual pigeon shoot, March 24.
Malloy's lawyers said applying the animal cruelty law to their client would cause the farmer "irreparable harm," and damage his potential for income.
Hundreds of people come from all over for the shoot, at a charge of $250 a head.
"This statute was passed without the knowledge of the general public, and probably, I believe, that the statute was passed without the knowledge of most of the legislators," says attorney Trey Duckworth.
An animal rights group, Fund for Animals, says the activity is not sport, and that it is barbaric. They say most of the birds do not die when they are shot, but die a slow and painful death.
"It is the pigeons that are going to suffer," says Heidi Prescott with the Fund for Animals. "25,000 animals are going to suffer irreparable harm because of this decision. The legislature made it clear that the cruelty to animals is unacceptable in North Carolina."
The next step for Malloy is to seek a permanent injunction, then try to get the law repealed.
TheAttorney General's office, attorneys for the Wildlife Service, and the local district attorney all say a state statute cannot be ignored simply because someone does not like it.
The penalty for breaking the law is a maximum 15 months in prison, and a charge is leveled for every animal killed.
One of the lawmakers who cosponsored the bill says its intent was to eliminate cock fights, dog fights and greyhound racing. "Then other groups came up and said we've got this and we've got that and it all sounded reasonable at the time," said Rep. Daniel McComas.
Malloy did not appear in court Thursday. However, he said that he is pleased with the decision, and that he just wants to be left alone.