Commissioners put off pigeon proposal

Tuesday’s County Commission meeting was for the birds.

No, really.

A proposal to outlaw the intentional feeding of pigeons and create a complaint-based system for reporting scofflaws will go back to the drawing board after residents and commissioners pecked away at enforcement issues. The commission is expected to hear the matter again Jan. 17.

The proposed changes, brought forward by Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani and written by county staff, would make it unlawful for any person to allow food scraps to be discarded in a manner that results in “lingering, roosting and/or congregating of pigeons.”

Some commissioners questioned the fiscal responsibility of the proposal.

Assistant County Manager Randy Tarr said Real Property Management can spend anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 clearing the birds out from parks and community centers with hazmat cleanup and installing devices that keep pigeons from making the mess again.

Commissioner Mary Beth Scow said she had concerns about reasonable enforcement and associated costs.

The proposed changes were tailored to the county’s rules about barking dogs, which means a postcard or letter would be sent as an education tool to explain the ordinance. After that, it would be handled like any other code issue — meaning it could be a misdemeanor worth up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Commissioner Larry Brown said he supported banning pigeons on public property but would “be real reluctant to start dictating what people can do on their private property.”

Those partial to pigeons clashed with others who spoke out against the ever-growing pigeon population during a public comment period at Tuesday’s meeting.

Sally Larimore, who lives in rural Clark County, said she did not support the proposal because it violates the rights of private property owners, who like to feed birds.

“What imminent peril to the citizens of Clark County has elevated this mundane matter to a public policy emergency?” Larimore said.

She said, “I’m going to have to put a memo out or something to the birds, maybe in pidgin English, to explain to them that they can’t visit my property anymore.”

Giunchigliani said what prompted her to bring the issue of pigeon control to light was when several people contacted her office with concerns about the flocking of pigeons.

“The intent of this is not to stop people from being able to feed their wild birds,” she said. “I have bird feeders of my own. I just try to act responsibly with what I’m doing with them. … This was meant to give animal control a tool. It’s complaint-driven. It is not something where we drive around and take a look at folks and try to cite them. I hate it when neighbors get pitted against neighbors. I don’t want to encourage that.”

Giunchigliani’s proposal would not apply to the lawful trapping of pigeons, injured pigeons kept in cages at all times, pigeons kept and maintained for recreation, communication, show, racing or food, and unintentional feeding from using bird feeders — if the person hasn’t been given notice concerning the lingering, roosting or congregating of pigeons.

“I’m an animal lover,” Giunchigliani said. “I have animals. I never leave my dog food out. That’s irresponsible in my opinion.”

The request for change falls in line with other areas of the valley, including Henderson. The Henderson City Council voted in September to declare pigeons a public nuisance and cite residents for encouraging the roosting or lingering of the birds by feeding them. That city’s law relies on a complaint-based system.

In Las Vegas, pigeons are considered a nuisance in the city’s animal control ordinance, which addresses many of the same issues in the county proposal.

The county has tried to deal with its pigeons before the proposal with birth- control-laced feed to help reduce the population at some parks. While county officials deem the program effective, pigeon experts say the process does nothing to lessen the numbers.

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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