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Regulations for homing pigeons to be included in city animal ordinance

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“We’ve had a couple complaints regarding pigeons in town,” Scott Oleson, building and code compliance director, told the Storm Lake City Council Monday. Oleson hopes that adding a section regulating homing pigeons in the city’s updated animal ordinance will help prevent conflicts between pigeon owners and their neighbors. 

Oleson said the city has recently received calls about homing pigeons leaving messes on residential property. He said he knows of at least a couple people in town who house the pigeons as pets. Councilperson Kevin McKinney also said he has spoken to a few residents about pigeon problems over the last few years. 

Homing, or carrier pigeons are a type of domestic pigeon, selectively bred for their ability to find their way home over long distances. Historically, they have been used as messengers or letter carriers, even transferring military letters on land, air and sea during World War I. Sometimes they even located a person lost at sea. 

But Oleson isn’t quite sure yet what use Storm Lake residents have for their homing pigeons. He said he has to conduct more research. He also said he needed to verify whether the local pigeons in question would be considered homing pigeons under the law. 

As City Manager Keri Navratil mentioned Monday night, Iowa state code issues certain protections for homing pigeons. 

Indeed, under Iowa code labeled “pigeons — interference prohibited,” it is unlawful to hurt, kill, capture or interfere with any homing pigeon. It also states that any homing pigeon should “have the name, initials, or other identification of its owner stamped, marked or attached thereon.”

According to Oleson, some cities have ordinances that regulate the times at which homing pigeons can fly. “There’s a pretty wide spectrum of what people do to regulate them,” Oleson said. 

Navratil agreed that the city should write some mandates for pigeons in their animal ordinance, which the city has been consolidating and editing over the past couple months.“While I don’t think we can completely stop having homing pigeons in the community, I do think that there’s some regulations that we can place on homing pigeons,” Navratil said. 

Because most of the complaints have concerned pigeon excrement that falls on neighboring properties, Councilperson Meg McKeon said she was unsure whether town pigeon owners understood how to properly train the birds. 

“It seems to me that if we have people who say they have homing pigeons and they’re letting those pigeons out and they’re making a mess, that they really don’t know how to work with homing pigeons,” McKeon said. Instead, she said, the bird keepers should release the pigeons, which would immediately travel to a designated location and return home. 

Oleson said he would investigate how Storm Lake residents house and care for their pigeons. He also plans to research other city ordinances on homing pigeons and will report back to the city council likely sometime later this month. 

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