Vancouver woman wins bid to have guinea fowl hens allowed as pets

Friend or fowl?

The City of Vancouver argued it didn't matter, but a judge disagrees.

The city had appealed a provincial court judge's decision that sided with a woman who kept two guinea fowl hens in her backyard.

But the city's appeal was thrown out on Monday.

The city argued that a guinea fowl is a fowl and should, therefore, be prohibited under city bylaws. It also claimed that the provincial court judge erred when he found Reid's intention of keeping the birds as pets relevant to whether she violated bylaws.

"I do not agree with the City that how and why Ms.Reid kept the birds is irrelevant," said B.C. Supreme Court Justice Neena Sharma in her decision.

This is the latest development in a bizarre case that sheds light on the differences between exotic birds and domestic fowl and how municipalities handle unusual pets.

"While I have a judgment in my favour twice, I don't think that anybody really benefited, ultimately, from the process," Reid told CBC News Tuesday, citing the money, time and effort it took to fight the city.

Ghost and Darkness were hand-raised by Arielle Reid given their nature as guinea fowls  to panic in new environments.
Ghost and Darkness were hand-raised by Arielle Reid. (Submitted by Arielle Reid)

Reid bought a pair of guinea fowl chicks shortly after she moved to Vancouver from Oregon in 2021, describing them as "COVID silver linings." She said the birds, Ghost and Darkness, were a happy reminder of the time she'd spent in East Africa and childhood visits to her father's family in Jamaica.

But her neighbours in East Vancouver complained to the city, saying the birds were noisy.

Reid was charged with violating a section of the City of Vancouver's Animal Control Bylaw. In her arguments in provincial court, she cited another bylaw that allows residents to keep up to 12 exotic birds as pets.

Judicial Justice Zahid Makhdoom agreed and dismissed the charge, saying she kept the birds as "beloved companions, for the pure pleasure of their proximity," noting that many people keep "canines or felines, budgies or parrots."

City's appeal

In its appeal, the city argued the fact that Reid kept guinea fowl for "companionship" does not take them outside of the category of being a "fowl."

The city said all that needed to be proven was that Reid kept the birds in violation of a bylaw that states "a person must not keep in any area, temporarily or permanently, any horses, donkeys, cattle, swine, sheep, goats, ducks, geese, turkeys, pheasants, quail, or other poultry or fowl."

Sharma said Reid provided "thoughtful" arguments, including that the bylaw doesn't specifically mention "guinea fowl" by name anywhere.

The city said it should be common sense to assume that guinea fowl are fowl, given their name.

Arielle Reid's guinea fowl hens, Ghost and Darkness, were rehomed to Pemberton over concerns she may lose her court case and have them confiscated by the city.
Arielle Reid's guinea fowl hens, Ghost and Darkness, were rehomed to Pemberton over concerns she may lose her court case and have them confiscated by the city. (Submitted by Arielle Reid)

"However, the City provided no evidence or extrinsic materials to support its position that guinea fowls are fowls, believing perhaps it was obvious that was the case," Sharma wrote.

"I am not persuaded that a guinea fowl is necessarily a fowl because the word 'fowl' appears in its commonly held English name."

Guinea fowl rehomed

Reid's victory is bittersweet given that she rehomed her guinea fowl to a farm in Pemberton, B.C., north of Vancouver when she initially fought the city in court.

"I might have bragging rights and I feel very proud that I did this," Reid said. "But does it allow for the city and residents to collaborate and collectively problem solve to get to better outcomes for everybody? I think the answer is no."

She says she still gets video and photo updates of Ghost and Darkness.

Despite the court decision, Reid says she won't get new guinea fowl anytime soon, as she spends less time at home now.

"Never say never, but not in the foreseeable future," said Reid, who's happily caring for two chickens.

The city told CBC News it's currently reviewing the court's decision to determine next steps.