Budgie lovers are in a flap over a city pet bylaw they say is turning dozens of respectable, longstanding bird keepers into scofflaws.
Several members of the decades-old Hamilton and District Budgerigar Society Inc. showed up at a city planning meeting Tuesday to appeal for an exemption from the city’s animal control bylaw – which infamously limits all residents to no more than four pets.
The limit introduced in 2012 is already unpopular with owners of cats, dogs and other more traditional pets.
But it is really ruffling feathers now for avian aficionados who routinely keep 40 to 120 birds – typically on the higher end if they participate in birds shows, said society vice-president Scott Aird.
“For that, you need at least 100 birds,” said Aird, whose relatively modest “chatter” of 60 budgies earned the wrath of bylaw a few months ago and resulted in both a $125 fine and an upcoming December court date.
For now, a bird-loving acquaintance is boarding Aird’s illegal brood. But other urban club members are also becoming worried about losing their birds to a neighbourhood dispute.
Budgie owners represent hundreds, and probably thousands, of illegal feathered friends – and Aird suggested that doesn’t include all of the equally off-limits small “cage birds” that are likely flying under the radar.
Aird said he was told his bylaw visit was prompted by a noise complaint. But despite the name, he argued a “chatter” of indoor budgies is less noisy than say, four legal macaw parrots or four excitable dogs in the backyard.
“Our birds are contained, they’re largely indoors in homes, garages or specially constructed out-buildings,” he said.
Aird said the budgie group disagreed with the bylaw limit when it was approved, but wasn’t aware of the impending change in time to formally oppose it.
The rule didn’t ruffle any feathers, however, until bylaw officers started showing up on doorsteps.
“We’ve been here (as a society) for 70 years,” said Aird. “We’re law-abiding. But it is impossible for us to meet the letter of this law.”
The group asked Tuesday for a bylaw exemption for all “small cage birds,” noting the city has already granted an exception to owners of racing pigeons.
Councillors received the presentation, but didn’t ask for a staff report or suggestion a motion.
That leaves budgie lovers pondering an appeal to help for national avian organizations, noting pigeon owners benefited from lobbying by the Canadian Racing Pigeon Union.
(That group memorably argued to councillors that owners raised “athletes,” not pets.)
Aird noted councillors even seemed friendlier towards community requests for backyard chickens, even if that pitch has been narrowly turned down in the past.
“If you can do it for pigeons, I feel like it’s not unreasonable to consider an exception for us,” he said.
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