In his native Iran, Edwin Alexanderian said, pigeons are considered pets.

So about seven years ago, after seeing poisoned pigeons around his home in Brookline and along the street, Alexanderian decided to catch some of the birds and try to nurse them back to health.

When he’s successful, Alexanderian said, he releases the birds where he found them. If a pigeon does not recover completely, Alexanderian keeps it in a coop in his backyard. He now has about 80 pigeons.

“I decided to keep them because I don’t want to put them down,’’ he said.

But Alexanderian’s efforts to help the birds – which typically are poisoned in an effort to control the local population – are getting him in trouble with town officials. He was cited by the town because he never obtained a special permit for the shed-sized coop in his backyard. He’s also been warned by Brookline health officials that he doesn’t have the proper permit to keep the birds.

Health officials say neighbors have complained about a flock of pigeons hanging around Alexanderian’s Hammond Street home and defecating on neighboring rooftops.

“There is no other neighborhood that we have this going on,’’ said Pat Maloney, Brookline’s chief environmental health inspector.

Thomas French, assistant director of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said there is a chance that the pigeons being kept in a coop could attract other birds.

“They could be coming to visit,’’ French said. “That is a possibility.’’

But if a flock of pigeons are visiting Alexanderian’s coop, he said, they were probably already in the neighborhood and had not traveled a great distance.

Alexanderian, who is president of the Town Meeting Member Association in Brookline, said the pigeons flying around his neighborhood are not his birds, and blames the flock’s size on rat poison that was set out in the area and that has led to the deaths of most of the local hawks. Without the hawks, Alexanderian said, the pigeons have no predators to keep their numbers down.

Alexanderian said his pigeons are in his coop, and the reason he keeps so many of the birds is because once they’ve been poisoned, many are unable to fly long distances.

“They don’t die right away, it affects their brains,’’ Alexanderian said.

French said some poisons used on pigeons have neurological effects that make the birds act strangely and scare off other pigeons. He said MassWildlife issues permits for poisons to be used in an effort to keep pigeon populations at acceptable levels.

“I’ve never heard of anyone trying to intervene and save these birds,’’ French said.

But unless he can obtain the proper permits from the town, Alexanderian may not be able to rescue poisoned birds much longer.

Brookline’s zoning bylaws require that his pigeon coop be kept at least 100 feet away from neighboring properties, said Polly Selkoe, the town’s assistant director of regulatory planning.

Selkoe said Alexanderian’s property “is not really big enough to meet that’’ requirement, and he will need a special permit. Alexanderian said the building commission has already cited him for the coop, and he’s trying to obtain the special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Selkoe said Alexanderian’s hearing is Dec. 17. If he does get a special permit, Alexanderian would still need a permit from the town’s Board of Health to keep pigeons on his property, Maloney said.

While no one else in Brookline has a permit to keep pigeons, Maloney said, there are a handful of permits that have been issued for other animals, such as chickens, ducks and potbellied pigs.

Alexanderian said that he will fight to keep the pigeons, but if the town tells him he can’t keep them any more, he will release them.

“You think they got a problem now,’’ he said. “Wait until I release my sick birds.’’


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