District of North Vancouver residents who own pigeons as pets may soon have to follow a number of new rules in order to keep their feathered friends and not face fines.
Council voted unanimously in support of taking a step toward the introduction of a new pigeon regulation bylaw at its March 15 meeting, with the issue now set to be discussed at a public meeting.
The proposed bylaw will, if adopted, regulate the keeping of pigeons in the district and ensure animal welfare and public health are protected, while potential nuisance issues are mitigated, according to the staff report.
The issue is back on the agenda after the district ruffled some feathers when it introduced a bylaw prohibiting the keeping of pigeons in 2019. Shortly after council adopted the bylaw in Nov. 2019, it came to light that councillor Betty Forbes lobbied her fellow council members via email to pass the bylaw despite her declaring that she was in a conflict of interest and recusing herself from the original vote. Kulwant Dulay, the only known pigeon keeper in the district, is Forbes’ neighbour and she had filed several complaints over the years about his coop and flock of 15 over the years. Those facts were laid out in an independent investigation into the matter carried out by former information and privacy commissioner David Loukidelis.
Forbes and Coun. Lisa Muri became the subjects of two court petitions seeking to have them removed from office, alleging they broke conflict of interest laws. They both denied any wrongdoing and asked for the petitions to be tossed out. That will go before a judge later in March.
On Oct.19, 2020, due to concerns raised by community members, council directed staff to repeal the pigeon prohibition bylaw and to bring forward for consideration a replacement bylaw, which came to council on Monday night.
Staff were directed to ensure the proposed bylaw would maintain the intent of the former 1971 keeping of pigeons bylaw, while also updating any regulations to reflect current practices.
In the report, staff highlighted that while many municipalities in Canada, including Surrey, Vancouver, Richmond, Toronto, Edmonton, and Brampton, permit the keeping of pigeons on private property, the approaches for regulating the activity vary, and the proposed bylaw was prepared following a comprehensive review of all approaches.
“Staff also consulted with the Canadian Racing Pigeon Union Inc., Canadian Fancy Pigeon Association, Vancouver Poultry & Fancy Pigeon Association, and any known keepers of pigeons within the District in preparation of the bylaw,” the report states.
“Staff also met with the SPCA to ensure there were no concerns regarding the bylaw contents and animal welfare.”
Like the old bylaw, it maintains that anyone who wants to keep pigeons in their backyard will need to have a permit, but it has also introduced a number of $100 fines for pigeon keepers who don’t follow the rules.
On top of the introduction of fines, the new bylaw includes limiting the maximum amount of pigeons a resident can have to 20, limiting the number of pigeon coops or enclosures to one per yard, as well as new enclosure cleaning guidelines and changes to how bird feed is kept.
It also stipulates that pigeons are “to be kept within their loft at all times except for limited periods necessary for exercise, training or competition when such pigeons must be under the owner's control.”
A person wanting to keep pigeons will also need an area of at least 550 square metres (5,920 square feet).
Under the bylaw, district residents would also be prohibited from keeping pigeons in, upon, or under any residential building or depositing pigeon manure in the municipal sewage or storm drain system.
Coun. Forbes recused herself from Monday's (March 15) vote due to ongoing litigation and Muri was not in attendance. The rest of council moved the item forward with little discussion.
One member of the community did phone in to say they were opposed to the new bylaw.
“We, the community, were the beneficiaries of the prohibition bylaw,” Corrie Kost said. “Our health and safety were at risk and the ban benefited all of us. So long as pigeons are allowed to fly in residential areas, everyone, especially our most vulnerable, is at risk.
“Sometimes it’s little things that matter the most, banning pigeons in the district was in my humble opinion a good thing.”
The public meeting on the pigeon regulation bylaw is expected to be scheduled sometime in Spring.
Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News