District of North Van to domestic pigeons: Shoo!

Coo-er heads didn’t prevail.

Domestic pigeons are being told to fly the coop in the District of North Vancouver, following council’s passing of a new bylaw which will prohibit the possession of the winged pets within the municipality.

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Under the new pigeon prohibition bylaw, it’s an offence to own, possess, harbour, hold or keep in captivity a pigeon, or pigeons, anywhere in the district. Violators of the new bylaw could be hit with a $200 fine. 

Comparing pigeon keeping to owning a different kind of pet, such as a dog, and allowing it to “run wild” in the municipality, Coun. Lisa Muri, who argued in favour of the new bylaw, stated that owning pigeons and letting them fly throughout the neighbourhood could impact others in the community.

“I would equate it to me having racing dogs and letting them go in the neighbourhood and hoping they would come back,” said Muri. “There has been an ongoing issue with regards to some complaints that have gone on for several years. I believe it is time that we took a position on this.”

The district first adopted a bylaw that regulates the keeping of pigeons in 1971. The bylaw set standards for general enclosure cleanliness and health, and prohibited pigeons from perching, roosting, straying or feeding on another parcel, highway or public place.

But as the district has become less and less rural during the proceeding 50 years, the original bylaw has been in need of a major refresher, according to Coun. Jim Hanson.

“This pigeon prohibition takes into account the evolving nature and the urbanization of North Vancouver District,” said Hanson. “It isn’t a rural setting anymore. There obviously isn’t a great public demand to keep pigeons.”

A staff report from July points to documented cases of pigeons flying over private property and public lands, roosting and defecating on private property and public lands, and pigeon food attracting rats and other vermin.

But according to district staff, there is also only one household in the municipality, as far as staff can ascertain, that is harbouring pigeons as domestic pets.

Couns. Mathew Bond and Jordan Back took umbrage with council passing a whole new bylaw just to deal with what amounts to a single active complaint from several years ago registered against the owner of the pigeons.

While first noting the types of different animals that are allowed to be kept across the district, including dogs, cats, and even chickens, Bond said the few complaints surrounding pigeon keeping could have been addressed by the original 1971 bylaw.

“There’s only one known owner of pigeons,” said Bond. “I don’t see this to be necessarily an issue that we should really even be talking about now considering the other pressing needs at council.”

Mayor Mike Little countered that technically having one owner of pigeons and one complainant was actually a “terrible record” and it could still have an onerous impact even if only a few parties were involved.

“It’s important for us to spend a little bit of council time refreshing our old bylaws and making sure that they keep current,” said Little. “We also don’t allow many other animals to roam the neighbourhood. … I think that this time has come.”

The new bylaw does allow pigeons to be transported through or obtain veterinary services within the district, as well as the temporary possession of pigeons if it relates to animal rescue.

The pigeon prohibition bylaw will take effect on May 1, 2020 in order to allow those keeping pigeons on their property some time to find new suitable homes for their avians.

Council voted 4-2 in favour of the bylaw, with Couns. Bond and Back against it.

Coun. Betty Forbes recused herself from voting, citing a conflict of interest.

“I’m declaring a conflict because I have been involved in a situation like this, so I’m stepping aside,” said Forbes.

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