Pigeons no worse than cats, council told

City urged to amend its ban on birds in residential areas by Gurbir Brar.

Gurbir 'The Birdman' Brar shows off his flock of pigeons behind his Abbotsford home

Gurbir 'The Birdman' Brar shows off his flock of pigeons behind his Abbotsford home

Abbotsford’s pigeon prohibition will be examined by city staff after a passionate presentation Monday by Gurbir Brar, who raises the birds and says the bylaw outlawing them is irrational and unnecessary.

Brar, who was joined at council by more than a dozen fellow pigeon fanciers, told council that the hobby keeps kids out of trouble and should be allowed in residential areas. Currently, bylaws dictate that pigeons can be kept only in agricultural areas.

(The News spoke to Brar for a story earlier this month, read it and watch a video here.)

Brar said other jurisdictions, including Calgary and Surrey, allow the keeping of hobby pigeons in residential areas, without a problem. He compared pigeons to cats, noting the birds – when properly trained – are much less disruptive than felines to the surrounding community.

He also brought letters from two doctors and a veterinarian testifying that the birds don’t pose dangers to human or animal health, and he wondered why pigeon-keeping would be problematic in residential areas when wild pigeons are not monitored or considered a hazard.

“Our birds are kept in a controlled and confined environment,” he said, comparing their environs to “five-star hotel conditions.” He also noted that pigeons have never been found to be carrying avian flu in Canada and that even if they were at risk, allowing them in agricultural areas but not in urban areas doesn’t help matters.

Brar said he hoped to work with staff to find a compromise that would ensure those who keep pigeons do so in a responsible manner.

Along with his presentation, Brar submitted a 46-page report (read it here) that included a proposed licensing regime that would include animal control, the BC SPCA, a newly created Abbotsford Pigeon Club and the City of Abbotsford. Pigeon owners would be able to apply for a city licence after receiving membership in the local club. His proposal would also see a maximum of 25 adult birds allowed on a 6,000-square-foot lot, the same as permitted in Surrey. Birds would also have to be tagged.

Council voted to refer the issue back to staff for a report.

Brar was praised for the thoroughness of his presentation, and Mayor Henry Braun noted that he had raised pigeons himself as a youth, although he cautioned that council would also have to consider the impact on neighbours if pigeons were to be allowed.