November 12, 2007 / 10:47 PM / in 10 years

New York mulls $1,000 fine for feeding pigeons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City lawmaker wants to declare war on the city’s pigeons and says he will not be dissuaded by the difficulties faced by London and Venice in ridding themselves of the ubiquitous birds.

City Councilman Simcha Felder on Monday called on the city to levy a fine of as much as $1,000 on people feeding pigeons, distribute bird contraceptives, and employ hawks to scare the birds away.

He also suggested appointing a “pigeon czar” to orchestrate the fight, a plan that has ruffled the feathers of animal lovers.

“Cities are lifeless places. People don’t appreciate the fact that we have some wildlife,” said Al Streit, director of The Pigeon People, an organization that rescues injured birds.

Felder said he doesn’t expect to rid the city of pigeons but that it was time to combat what he called a public health hazard.

Pigeons feed on crumbs beneath outdoor tables in New York's Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, November 12, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Felder said pigeons and their droppings are host to several severe communicable diseases, though a report released by his office noted that cases “are rare and the threat is often exaggerated.”

London has outlawed feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square and brought in trained hawks to kill them. But pigeons still flock to the square, and Mayor Ken Livingston has come under fire for the program’s high cost.

Venice is trying to stop the sale of bird seed in St. Mark’s Square and prevent pigeons from chipping away at marble statues and buildings. Licensed bird feed sellers do not want to go and animal rights activists have also expressed concern.

This summer, Los Angeles said it would introduce a pigeon contraceptive called OvoControl P to reduce the population.

“The fact is that people have been disgusted and annoyed,” said Felder, adding that he frequently dodges pigeon droppings at his Brooklyn subway station. “I might as well say that I‘m sick and tired of it.”

This isn’t the first time New York City has tried to control its pigeon population. In 2003, a hawk was briefly employed to scare pigeons in a Manhattan park but the program was abandoned a few months later after the hawk attacked a Chihuahua.

Hearings on Felder’s plan may be called before the end of the year.

Editing by Daniel Trotta and Eric Beech

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