Know Your AU – USPS & Live Shipping

August 18, 2017
Coop Kohli, AU Lakes Zone Director

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.

5 Responses to Know Your AU – USPS & Live Shipping

  1. Rob on August 18, 2017 at 7:20 am

    I agree 100% with the article about the AU benefits and how these benefits are seldom mentioned or appreciated.
    To inform the membership; better each club needs a designated AU representative. A district representative is not sufficient.
    (In my club, where the SE representative is a member, we have never heard anything from him or the previous representative either)
    In addition, I believe the dues ($25) are artificially low and should not be a point of contention for any member.
    For years I’ve seen that members feel like victims of the AU rather than proud of the organization. There is no-perfect… but we can try to comply.

  2. Tom Fremont on August 18, 2017 at 10:08 am

    So well said Coop. I recall in 2010 a Convention I attended, where a young lady (Jr. Member about 13 years old at the time) attended with her family. They were from my area. She had been flying for about 3 years, with a wooden clock..when everyone else had electronic timers. I once asked her why? She said they couldn’t afford one. But she then said on a bright note, Tom I entered the AU essay contest and the winner gets a new clock !! I said good luck…. She won !! and at the Convention she went up front to receive her award…(A top of the line Benzing) tears filled her eyes, and a smile was plastered on her face for the rest of the convention. She has gone on to do some great writing for different Pigeon Organizations. She is now married and still races pigeons. One small example of what the AU does for us. I could go on and on. We had a VERY BAD APPLE Steal from us in 2016 !! Does that define the AU that has been in existence for 117 years. Do you think the AU staff knew this was going to happen. Mistakes were made to be sure.. We are a small fraternity of pigeon fanciers… what has happened ? There are relentless haters out there today trying to tear us down…. Do you think these same people would do any better, do you think they would put in hours and hours on the phone and visiting with members without getting paid to try and better our sport ?? I don’t think so… Please allow this to play out.. I know for a fact the AU is doing their best to bring this situation to a close. Like Coop said couldn’t take you and your wife out to breakfast for the price if the AU dues.. please do not be unrealistic with your expectations …The benefits FAR outweigh the mistakes…. I too was very upset with the AU..but then took a good hard introspective look..and changed my thinking.. Let’s move forward for the sake of all of us.

  3. Pat on August 18, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    So is suppose to make people feel better about all the money that got stolen from them in the 2016 AU Convention? Because to me all that the AU did was do what they should have with the money they collected from the members. It didn’t make up for the fact that it is called the AU Convention, they choose who they think should run the race but when they did everything wrong from start to finish they don’t want any responsibility for it! I didn’t even send birds and probably will never again but feel bad for a lot of the AU members that got completely ripped off! If you have to raise dues $10 to take care of the problem and get these people paid do it! Then use the extra money to go burry the crooks in a hole!

  4. Ron Whitmer on August 27, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    You mention the $50,000 the AU spent fighting the zoning laws in Chicago. To best of my knowledge it was money wasted as no lofts are are now allowed in the city limits

  5. Mike Netzky on November 15, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    I would like to thank Deone Roberts and Karen Clifton for their invaluable help with our newly started “Flying Clovers 4-H RPC. The AU cooperation, material, contacts, and much, much more really made a huge difference to the kids and me for the ongoing success of our club.
    Mike Netzky

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