Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 | 12:29 p.m.
A proposal to outlaw the feeding of pigeons in unincorporated Clark County had the passions of pigeon lovers and haters on display at this morning's Clark County Commission meeting.
“I have never heard of doves and pigeons being heard of as flying rats,” said one woman, an admitted bird feeder, who said the language of the proposed ordinance — it refers to them as “flying rats” — was “obviously” used to stir up the public. The woman derided the drafting of the ordinance “during the holiday season of peace and good will,” saying it will “only result in neighbors snitching on neighbors.”
“Pigeons have a right to eat just like any other animal has a right to eat,” one man said, adding that he didn’t think pigeons were a menace. “Liberal Democrats, I think they’re a menace, too, but no one’s saying we can’t feed y’all.”
Nephi Oliva, owner of Nevada Pigeon Control, a private business, countered that the proposal would help address the valley's pigeon problem even though the intentional feeding of pigeons is not the main cause of pigeon over-population.
“Most of the problem centers around trash,” Oliva said.
Mike Connell, who said he was in the roofing business for 20 years, said pigeons destroy roofs unlike any other menace, manmade or natural.
“They are unlike any other bird, they do not roost in trees and foliage, they roost on man-made structures,” Connell added. “It’s not the total solution, but it is a beginning.”
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who drafted the proposed ordinance, said she is merely responding to constituents who say flocks of pigeons are a nuisance. Las Vegas and Henderson have similar bans in place, she said.
“The intent is not to stop people from being able to feed wild birds, I have bird-feeders of my own,” she said. But when you have a nuisance that affects neighbors or the community, "people come to government and say, ‘help fix that.” This is to give a tool to Animal Control to notify people if there is a nuisance."
The birds can be a fairly large expense to county taxpayers. County staff told commissioners that it is not uncommon for the county’s Real Property Management staff to spend $10,000 to $15,000 on a “hazmat cleanup” to rid a community center of pigeons.
Under the proposed ordinance, offenders would first be sent a postcard instructing them to stop feeding the pigeons, which would be a misdemeanor violation. If that didn’t work, stronger enforcement would follow, including fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
County staff said no additional employees would be hired for enforcement.
Commissioner Larry Brown liked the idea of an ordinance banning the birds on public property but did not like meddling on private property. He thought maybe an amendment to the county’s code on “nuisances” could address feeding on private property.
Giunchigliani agreed and made a motion to bring back the proposal after staff has examined a possible change for people feeding pigeons on public versus private property, and whether some of the problem could be addressed with current nuisance ordinances.
Commissioners did not vote on the matter.