July 24, 2013

Erin bylaw will regulate pigeons and chickens

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town council has decided to allow urban residents to continue keeping pigeons and chickens, but to prohibit the keeping of exotic animals in all areas of the municipality.

By a vote of 3-2, councillors directed staff to prepare a new bylaw, which will also rescind an old bylaw on animals other than domestic pets which applied only in the Erin village area.

The new regulation would require any buildings that house pigeons or chickens to be located at least 7.5 metres (25 feet) in from the side and back property lines.

No limit on the number of animals was specified, but the proposal would effectively force owners of smaller urban properties to locate animal sheds in the middle of their back yards. The bylaw itself has not been written or voted on yet, and councillors could decide to change the size of the setback.

Residents in agricultural areas will also retain the right to keep pigeons and chickens, but they will also have to comply with the setbacks. Council considered whether to regulate or prohibit the keeping of other agricultural animals on small properties within agricultural zones, but decided not to include that in the bylaw.

There will be a long list of prohibited exotic (non-domestic/wild) animals. Non-venomous lizards (less than 2 metres long) and snakes (less than 3 metres) will be allowed.

Animal issues have been under discussion since March 2012, when a complaint was made to Council regarding the keeping of pigeons on Mill Street in Hillsburgh. A special public meeting last summer drew about 100 people, expressing a wide range of opinions.

Councillors considered whether it was necessary to enact a town-wide bylaw to deal with an isolated dispute between neighbours. Planner Sally Stull has met with the parties, and says that the differences are not likely to be resolved with further mediation.

“A solid tall fence may be the best remedy regarding the differing of opinion on nuisance and unsightliness of the keeping of pigeons,” she said.

Voting in favour of preparing a new bylaw were Councillors Jose Wintersinger, Deb Callaghan and Barb Tocher, with Mayor Lou Maieron and Councillor John Brennan opposed.

“This won’t change the situation,” said Brennan. “It’s an exercise in nothing.”