Joe, a pigeon facing death row may receive reprieve over fake tag claim
The American-style racing band around Joe's leg appeared to be a knock-off available online and often used by local owners
A racing pigeon that survived the long journey to Australia from the United States but was detained by authorities and set to be destroyed over concerns it was an American intruder received a lifeline Friday when experts revealed its leg tag was probably fake.
"Humane destruction of the bird is the best safeguard for Australian poultry and wildlife," Australia's agriculture department said in a statement.
Melbourne resident Kevin Celli-Bird found the pigeon in his garden on Boxing Day and discovered by way of the bird's tag on its leg that it was registered to an owner in Alabama state in the United States, Australian media reported.
Authorities said an investigation has begun to find the authenticity of the US tag as it was unlikely the bird flew more than 13,000 kilometres (8,000 miles) to Australia and could have been a hitchhiker on a cargo vessel.
Authorities are also looking at options to manage the biosecurity risks and this may include moving the bird back to the United States, if authorities there agree.
The pigeon, which has been named "Joe", has gained popularity in social media platforms with many tweeting with the hashtag #joethepigeon demanding its safe return to the United States.
"My wife named him Joe. She was going to call him Donald but we thought that might not be politically correct, so she called him Joe instead," Celli-Bird told TV broadcaster Nine Network.
Australia has strict quarantine regulations on bringing live animals or birds into the country to prevent diseases from spreading on the arid continent.
"If Joe has come in a way that has not met our strict biosecurity measures then bad luck Joe. Either fly home or face the consequences," Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told reporters.
But as execution loomed for the feathered flyer on Friday, pigeon enthusiasts cast doubt on Joe's identity.
The American-style racing band around Joe's leg appeared to be a knock-off available online and often used by local owners.
And it transpired that Joe was not a US racing breed, as his tag seemed to suggest, but a local Turkish Tumbler.
"They're not bred for flying long distances, they're bred for tricks in the air. So they're like a show bird really," Lars Scott from Pigeon Rescue Melbourne said.
Scott's claim that the tag was a fake was backed up by the American Racing Pigeon Union, which posted on Facebook to try to save Joe.
McCormack's predecessor previously threatened to euthanise Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's pet dogs when they were illegally brought into the country.