The feathers are flying over Mike Tyson’s new pigeon racing show.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office is investigating whether the reality show – which follows the former heavyweight champ as he competes with other pigeon racers – violates anti-gambling laws.
The animal rights group PETA sent a letter to District Attorney Charles Hynes pointing out wagers are often placed on such races and arguing that Tyson’s salary from the Animal Planet show is itself a monetary reward derived from racing animals, which is illegal in New York except for horse racing.
A spokesman for Hynes Sunday confirmed that the office received the letter and said, “we’re looking into it.”
The show, which is slated to begin filming in Brooklyn this spring and debut next year, highlights Tyson’s lifelong love of pigeon rearing and “take(s) audiences inside the intensely competitive and bizarrely fascinating world of pigeon racing,” according to a news release from Animal Planet.
Tyson could not be reached for comment Sunday, but a spokeswoman for the channel, Patricia Kolloappallil, said “there have never been any plans for wagering on pigeon races.”
“We have not yet begun filming but, rest assured, all of the pigeons that we will feature in the program are cherished and respected by their owners, including Mr. Tyson,” Kolloappallil said.
PETA, which is urging people to write the network, denounced the sport itself.
“Considering its inherent cruelties, there’s no question that pigeon racing should be illegal,” the group wrote on its Web site. “Birds who are forced to race often struggle to survive extreme heat, hail, and thunderstorms, dodging both predators and cruel humans through grueling races that can be as long as 500 miles.”