A man is suing a driver in a Daxing district court over the death of his expensive racing pigeons after a car crash last year. The opposing sides disagree on the number of pigeons that were involved in the incident.
The pigeon fancier, surnamed Hu is suing the driver, surnamed Liu, for 580,000 yuan ($91,988) in compensation for his racing pigeons that were allegedly killed, injured or flew away after the traffic accident.
Six pigeons were killed, two were injured and another six flew away and never returned in the accident on September 28, 2011, which happened as owner Hu was loading the pigeon cage into his car. The other car, which was driven, but not owned by Liu, hit Hu and his pigeons, breaking the cage, according to the Beijing Evening News.
Although both parties agreed on the fact that there was a traffic accident, the accused driver and the insurance company dispute the amount of compensation Hu is claiming.
The insurance company said that only four pigeons died and two were injured, according to the traffic verification result, while Hu claimed another six flew away.
"How can you prove you lost six pigeons that flew away?" said the defendant's attorney in court.
The insurance company is disputing the amount of compensation Hu feels entitled to. Several pigeons are young and unable to participate in races yet, therefore the compensation standard should be lower than for normal racing pigeons, the company said. Hu said four pigeons died on site, and another two which flew away, but then returned home, were too badly injured and died later, according to the report.
Hu said he has been raising pigeons for years and sending his birds to professional races. He spent a lot of money on the birds, he said, with the most expensive "seed pigeon" costing him 50,000 yuan, another 13 costing 18,000 yuan each plus the bird food, quarantine and training. He appealed to the court for an estimate of the value of his pigeons and asked the accused driver, the car owner and the car insurance company for a total 580,000 yuan in compensation.
The verdict will not be announced until the matter of the value of Hu's pigeons is decided, the report said.
"It's difficult to do a price estimate for special animals like racing pigeons since they are different from pet dogs or cats, which have a mature market to refer to when estimating their value," said Zhang Gang, a lawyer specializing in traffic accident cases, from Beijing Haodong Law Firm.
Zhang told the Global Times the price estimate for racing pigeons should be based on the birds' types, price at purchase and race records, but currently there is no professional verification institutes in China that can make such an estimate.
"The birds' owner should offer evidence such as the receipts to prove those birds are worth that much, or else it'll be the judges' responsibility to decide on the current situation," he said.
"Hu might not be bluffing and asking a random high price, since racing pigeons can worth a lot if they've been proven to be excellent and have won championships," said Wu Changfu, a resident in Chaoyang district who has been raising racing pigeons for 30 years.
A racing pigeon could be worth 2 million yuan if it's good enough and their offspring, or squabs, are competition winners as well, he said.
Racing pigeons can cost a lot, and he spends an average of 1,000 yuan on young ones each year including food and training fees, he said.
There are professional verification institutes in Europe for racing pigeons, he said, while pigeon races in China started only three decades ago and the market is yet to be developed.