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Yang: Get to know pigeons before you judge them (column)

5:05 PM, Sep. 6, 2013  |  Comments
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Daily Herald Media recently reported an attempt by the city of Schofield to force resident Brian Mader to remove the two coops of racing pigeons he has kept there since 2009. As a pigeon owner myself in the village of Weston, I took special interest in this case.

The conflict arose when Schofield City Council member Sue Martell, a newly elected city official who is a neighbor of Mader's, said a "citizens group" had contacted her about removing the pigeons. The City Council ruled last month that Mader was in violation Schofield's ordinance against keeping "fowl."

Luckily, Schofield Mayor Ken Fabel announced soon after the Daily Herald Media story was published that since Schofield does not have the funds to defend against a possible legal challenge, it would not enforce the City Council's decision.

I am glad Fabel has chosen to take this stance. But it does not resolve the issue. Mader is not in violation of the city's prohibition of "fowl."

The term "fowl" has been used inappropriately by Martell in order to target Mader's pigeons. Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries clearly define fowl birds as: "a gallinaceous bird kept chiefly for its eggs and flesh." The term "gallinaceous" means any bird that is from the avian order Galliformes. Pigeons and doves belong to the order of Columbidae.

In attempting to ban the pigeons, Martell and the city of Schofield seem to be using the broader definition of "fowl" as any bird whatsoever. The ordinance does not distinguish between birds kept indoors and birds kept outdoors. If the ordinance refers to all birds, then everyone in the city of Schofield better get rid of all parrots, parakeets, cockatiels, cockatoos, finches, canaries and all other birds that are currently being kept as pets.

In biblical times, "doves" were used by Noah to find land during the great flood. "Doves" also were used in the first Olympic Games in ancient Greece as means of communication so villages would know the results of the games. "White doves" are often used to symbolize peace and are still used today in releases during weddings and funerals.

I use the term "doves" in quotation marks because these birds used during Biblical times and today are, in fact, homing pigeons: pigeons bred to return to where their home, or coop, is located - the same kind kept by Mader.

Before the advent of the automobiles, the U.S. used homing pigeons to transport messages to and from various large cities. These same homing pigeons carried numerous life-saving messages during World War I and World War II.

Pigeons are not the disease-ridden birds they are often portrayed to be. The average pigeon's body temperature is 106.2 degrees and the average human body temperature is 98.6 degrees. Most of the parasites or diseases found in pigeons cannot live in the human body because of the temperature difference.

In the end, I am glad the city of Schofield, led by Fabel, rescinded its demands for the removal of Mader's pigeons. The city can choose to amend its ordinance to exclude pigeons and all other birds if it wants to. But the ordinance it has now does not ban pigeons - and there's no good reason it should.

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