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Millions of Birds Spared Cruel Deaths as Poison Producer Halts Sales

Toxic Avitrol® Killed Millions of Birds

  • Pigeons have been the most common victims of Avitrol® poisoning, but it has killed many other birds as well. iStockphoto.com

UPDATE: In March 2011, Avitrol Corporation announced that they had reversed their closure plans and would produce limited quantities of the poison to fill orders while seeking a buyer.

In August 2011, an employee purchased the firm and it appears Avitrol will continue producing the poison while seeking re-registration from EPA.

The only U.S. manufacturer of the poison 4-aminopyridine, brand named Avitrol®, will halt all sales on Oct. 27 and close its doors at the end of the month. The Humane Society of the United States is pleased that this lethal product will no longer be available, and urges individuals to implement highly effective humane tactics to handle conflicts with birds. This closing comes in the midst of the Environmental Protection Agency’s review of 4-aminopyridine which would likely have resulted in new restrictions on its use.

Avitrol® is a lethal poison that affects the nervous system. Birds who consume the substance become disoriented, flap their wings erratically, and exhibit spasmodic and convulsive movements before dying. According to the EPA unintended victims, including federally protected birds, have been killed by consuming Avitrol® or the remains of poisoned birds. The toxic substance is also poisonous to other animals and people. 

“Avitrol® is an unnecessary and dangerous substance,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “There are many proven humane ways to deter pigeons and other birds from flocking in certain areas. Humane approaches, combined with educational efforts to help people understand why feeding pigeons is often not a favor to the animals, can be implemented to save the lives of millions of innocent animals.”

Effective humane solutions include the contraceptive drug OvoControl-P, which limits pigeon reproduction, and devices that keep birds off rooftops, windowsills and similar surfaces.

New York state legislators were so concerned about the use of Avitrol® that they banned it from use in major metropolitan areas such as New York City in 2000. For three decades, Avitrol® has caused suffering and death to millions of pigeons, house sparrows, starlings, grackles, blackbirds and other birds. The numbers are staggering— information submitted by the manufacturer to the EPA show that enough Avitrol® was sold in the US from 2002 to 2006 to kill more than 200 million birds each year. 

While sales will end this month, purchasers will be allowed to use any remaining stock. Therefore, people should remain aware of possible Avitrol® poisonings in their communities. If poisoned birds are found, residents can help any surviving birds in the vicinity by immediately contacting their local animal control agency, a wildlife rehabilitator, or a veterinary clinic. Scattered bait and dead birds should be removed immediately to prevent other animals, including cats and dogs, from making contact with the poison or tainted carcasses.


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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