Mike Tyson

PETA is not pleased with Mike Tyson's new Animal Planet show about pigeon racing.

The animal welfare group wants New York City prosecutors to investigate Tyson's Brooklyn-based reality show, saying it is cruel to animals and its races could involve illegal gambling.

"Animal Planet needs more programs like Whale Wars and Animal Cops, in which people go to bat for animals, and fewer programs that showcase cruelty and profiteering at animals' expense," PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk said in a statement.

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Taking on Tyson, which is scheduled to begin filming next month and air next year on Animal Planet, will follow the former heavyweight champion as he competes in what a news release describes as the "intensely competitive and bizarrely fascinating world of pigeon racing." The news release adds that Tyson is a novice pigeon racer, but "has a deep passion for birds and raised pigeons all his life."

In pigeon racing, trained homing pigeons are released from predetermined locations and timed over the distance traveled in returning to their home lofts. Race distances vary, but 300-mile races are the most common, according to the American Racing Pigeon Union.

Animal Planet spokeswoman Patricia Kollappallil said PETA's grievances were unfounded. "There have never been any plans for wagering on the pigeon races," she said. "[The featured pigeons] are cherished and respected by their owners, including Mr. Tyson. Animal Planet will honor that respect and care in our production and in how these beautiful creatures are treated.

PETA sent a letter to the Brooklyn district attorney last week requesting the investigation.

District attorney spokesman Jonah Bruno said Monday that the office has received PETA's letter and is looking into it.