Fate of pigeon ban to be decided in bylaw review

Advocates say birds are no worse than cats, if properly cared for.

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

The fate of Abbotsford’s urban pigeon prohibition is still unclear after council received a report last week that noted the bird ban aligns with the city’s current zoning bylaw, but that those regulations are currently under review.

The issue was raised last fall by Gurbir Brar, who raises pigeons and says the bylaw banning them is irrational and unnecessary.

Brar told council in October that other jurisdictions, including Calgary and Surrey, allow the keeping of hobby pigeons in residential areas, without a problem. He compared pigeons to cats, and said the birds – when properly trained – are much less disruptive than felines to the surrounding community. He was accompanied by more than a dozen fellow pigeon fanciers.

Staff were directed to prepare a report, which was presented to council last week.

In it, assistant planner Nick Crosman notes that pigeons are currently defined as poultry, rather than pets, and thereby are an agriculture use. Currently, residential zones don’t permit such uses.

But the city’s zoning bylaw is currently undergoing a revision to align it with the 2016 Official Community Plan. That document would seem to be more friendlier to pigeon-rearing, and includes a statement that suggests council consider allowing “urban agriculture activities that encourage self-sufficiency.” Pigeons and backyard fowl aren’t mentioned in the OCP.

The updated zoning bylaw will come to council for approval or revision. Any changes would require a public hearing.

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