SALEM, Ohio — Randy Snyder took his time researching the Pigeon King International breeding opportunity before he jumped in with both feet and his entire life’s savings.
That was in December 2007, when he signed a $50,000 contract with Arlan Galbraith and his Pigeon King International business. His brother bought a contract, too, and the two started raising birds near Bucyrus, Ohio.
The opportunity, which promised the Snyders’ initial investments back within 12-18 months, was for them to buy breeding pairs of pigeons and sell the offspring back to the Canadian company.
But the brothers’ first shipments of young birds — scheduled to go out this week — never went, and the paychecks promised them are now just a dream.
The Snyders and other breeders like them, caught in the middle of the Pigeon King International bankruptcy, are struggling with hundreds or thousands of pigeons and wondering what they’ll do next.
Randy Snyder, who said he’s recovering from a motorcycle accident that broke his back and is still unable to work, said he’s hurt by the whole situation.
“I wanted a way to support myself, and invested my life savings. Now Arlan is sitting with a big, black bag of money,” he said.
He and his brother found out about the bankruptcy last month by a fluke. Getting ready to ship their first birds, the brothers had to call to tell Galbraith how they wanted paid: They could be paid days in advance or after they made the shipment, Snyder explained.
Both brothers called the pigeon company’s Canadian office to report their preference. All they got were full voice mail boxes. The next day, they were notified by letter of the bankruptcy.
On July 3, Snyder said he was in the process of disposing of his birds by gassing and burying them.
“The whole thing makes me sick. I was out there hand feeding these babies with syringes and now I have to kill them? I can’t believe I been so stupid.”
Nearby, in Ashland County, Jim Watson knows he can’t afford to buy much more feed to care for the 4,000 birds he owns.
But he’s not sure he wants to gas and bury this birds, either.
In the letter Galbraith sent to his breeders to notify them of the bankruptcy, he suggested letting the birds fly free.
“Even though they’re dumb birds, you get attached. I hate to kill them, but I also don’t think my neighbors would appreciate that many loose up in the air,” Watson said.
It was never Watson’s dream to go into the pigeon business, he said. The farm he purchased 11 months ago, on the Ashland-Wayne county line, came with the birds.
Watson said his barn was a PKI breeder barn, owned by Galbraith. Watson billed Galbraith for rent space and feed, and waited for the young birds to be picked up when they reached 5 weeks old.
He used the income he made raising the birds to make payments on the farm, and without that income, it’s getting more difficult to get by each month, Watson said.
He’s not been reimbursed for the last $1,800 in feed he put into the pigeons.
“That’s not a big loss compared to others you’re hearing, but I can’t afford to buy much more feed unless a market is proven.”
Watson said he’s been busy making phone calls to trap shooting associations, hoping to find someone with a need for the pigeons, but with no luck.
“I don’t want to have to kill them,” he said. “But I’m not even sure I have what are truly squab pigeons, if they do find a meat market.”
“I just really would like to get out at this point. Maybe it will all come together,” he said.
Randy Snyder believes Galbraith used Amish businessmen as bait to lure others into signing contracts to raise pigeons.
“Everybody believes an Amish guy when he tells you how good it is,” Snyder said of the income potential Galbraith advertised and that he saw with his own eyes on the farms he visited before signing a contract.
“The Amish won’t sue. He preyed on them,” Snyder said.
“I left a [phone] message for Arlan and asked him to please send my money back. There’s no reason I should lose my house because he lied to me,” Snyder pleaded.
“He called all these people fearmongers. He’s the biggest mongrel out there. He made millions off guys like me. The least he could do is give our money back.”
Come together. “Everybody’s embarrassed they were too damned stupid to fall for it. We admit it. We were taken,” Snyder said.
The bankruptcy trustee handling the case has called a meeting of creditors July 30 in Kitchener, Ontario.
“Nothing is going to happen [to Galbraith] unless us breeders get together and make a noise. Something has to come out of this,” Randy Snyder said.
“We’ve got to come out of the woodwork and stick together.”
Pigeon King International: Breeders struggle to get rid of pigeons (7/10/2008)
Pigeon King owes $23 million (7/10/2008)
Bankruptcy filing says Pigeon King owed $23 million (7/3/2008)
UPDATED: Pigeon King goes bankrupt (6/26/2008)
Pigeon King International bankrupt (6/19/2008)
Pigeon King gets wings clipped in Maryland (6/12/2008)
Washington finalizes cease and desist order against Pigeon King International (5/15/2008)
Washington takes action against Pigeon King International (5/1/2008)
Pigeons point to Ponzi scheme (3/13/2008)
Pigeon idea may not fly: Iowa investigating company for scheme (2/21/2008)
You’re raising what? Pigeons! (9/13/2007)