Joe the pigeon is off the hook in Australia.
It turns out the bird — which had been declared a biosecurity risk after officials believed it had arrived from the US – was wearing a fake leg band, according to The Associated Press.
The band suggested the bird, which was found in a Melbourne backyard on Dec. 2, was a racing pigeon that had fled from Oregon two months earlier.
Australian’s Agriculture Department, which handles biosecurity, on Thursday said it considered the bird a disease risk and planned to kill it.
But Deone Roberts, sport development manager for the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union, said on Friday that band number belongs to a blue bar pigeon in the US.
“The bird band in Australia is counterfeit and not traceable,” Roberts said. “They do not need to kill him.”
Authorities Down Under agreed.
“Following an investigation, the department has concluded that Joe the Pigeon is highly likely to be Australian and does not present a biosecurity risk,” the Agriculture Department said in a statement, adding that it will take no further action.
Before the reprieve was announced, acting Australian Prime Minister Michael McCormack said there would be no mercy if Joe was from the US.
“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,” McCormack said.
Victoria Health Minister Martin Foley had called for the government to spare the bird even if it posed a disease risk.
“I would urge the Commonwealth’s quarantine officials to show a little bit of compassion,” he said.
Melbourne resident Kevin Celli-Bird, who found the emaciated bird in his backyard, was relieved that his feathered friend will not be killed.
“I thought this is just a feel-good story and now you guys want to put this pigeon away and I thought it’s not on, you know, you can’t do that, there has got to be other options,” Celli-Bird said of the threat to euthanize.
The bird with the real leg band had disappeared from a 350-mile race in Oregon on Oct. 29, Crooked River Challenge owner Lucas Cramer said.
“That bird didn’t finish the race series, it didn’t make any money and so it’s worthless, really,” Cramer said.
Lars Scott, of Pigeon Rescue Melbourne, said pigeons with US leg bands were not uncommon around the city, where a number of breeders bought them online and used them for their own record keeping.
Celli-Bird said about Joe, whom he named after the president-elect: “I might have to change him to Aussie Joe, but he’s just the same pigeon.”