A Serious Blow To Pigeon Fanciers ..
Racing pigeons are kept grounded
Court denies appeal by club of city ban
By Charles Sheehan
Tribune staff reporter
Published December 24, 2005
A federal appeals court ruling this week clipped the hopes of Chicago pigeon racers who said a city law banning pet pigeons was unconstitutional.
On Thursday, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge upheld an earlier District Court court ruling that found the city was within its rights to ban racing pigeons as pets.
Members of one of the nation's oldest racing clubs were crestfallen Friday.
The case pitted the property rights of the 70 or so members of Chicago's pigeon-racing club, the Greater Chicago Combine and Center, against those of neighbors who complained of scattered feathers, excessive cooing and droppings.
"We're not hurting anybody," said Karl Wollenhaupt, secretary and treasurer for the group. "This sport has been in existence for hundreds of years, but the city says these birds are bad, dirty and evil. These are birds of pedigree."
Chicago is the only large American city with a total ban on homing pigeons, officials with the national American Racing Pigeon Union said.
"That's terrible," Executive Director Karen Clifton said. "Chicago is the only city that has ever put us through this."
The organization lobbies on behalf of birders nationwide. Its officials came to Chicago in 2003 to speak with aldermen and issue information packets on bird racing.
The City Council voted 48-0 to approve the ban, exempting Lincoln Park Zoo and the zoo at Indian Boundary Park.
Other large cities have set limits on the number of birds or have required screenings to monitor disease, Clifton said.
Ald. Thomas Allen (38th) sponsored the ban two years ago, prompted by complaints that birders attached large lofts to garages and houses on lots that were only 30 feet by 125 feet.
He did not return calls Friday. The city's Law Department was closed Friday.
In supporting the earlier court decision, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled that raising homing pigeons "is not a fundamental right."
"While housing pigeons in rural areas, for example, may be a perfectly unobtrusive endeavor, it is at least conceivable that the feathers, droppings, odor and noise generated by kept pigeons in tight, urban lots would be an untenable nuisance to residential neighbors," Leinenweber wrote.
A judge placed a stay on a similar case making its way through Cook County Circuit Court pending the outcome of the federal appeal, meaning there are other legal routes for the birders to follow, said Lisa Ligas, an attorney for the bird club.
|feral pigeon, homing pigeons, pet pigeon, pigeon lovers, pigeon union, racing pigeon, racing pigeon union|