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Bayonne council postpones excluding homing pigeons from farm animal ban

The council may adopt an amendment to the measure in October, or introduce a brand new ordinance

Homing pigeons are not the same as wild pigeons. Photo via Shutterstock.

Bayonne has postponed its proposed farm animal ban, contemplating an amendment to exclude homing pigeons after the last owner of the birds in the city spoke out. However, the City Council may also introduce an entirely new ordinance instead, but the details are not worked out yet, officials said.

Farm animal ban proposed in the city

The ordinance would define farm animals to include, but no be limited to “chickens, ducks, geese, pheasants, turkeys, quail, or other fowl, cows, goats, sheep, swine, horses, or cattle and such other animals as are typically raises on farms for domestic use.” The ordinance would also strictly prohibit said farm animals.

Per the ordinance, the breeding, keeping, harboring, raising, and or caring of farms animals would be “strictly prohibited within all zones including commercial and industrial property” within the city’s jurisdictional limits. The ordinance would also prohibit having other animals, such as the keeping, breeding, and raising of pigeons, on any property within Bayonne.

The ordinance would allow for some exemptions. Any resident breeding, keeping, harboring, raising and or caring for chickens and pigeons prior to the introduction of the ordinance, and who has registered with the Health Department, would be exempt until the registered animals are no longer living. Those residents would also need to comply with past practices related to chickens and pigeons.

Essentially, the ordinance would not ban residents who already own farm animals from keeping them, as long as they are registered. However, residents are now not able to own new farm animals, following the introduction of the ordinance.

The move follows two recurring problem areas in the city. In one instance, a rooster was causing trouble in one neighborhood. In another instance, a chicken coop has become a local eyesore.

As it turns out, the city does not have an ordinance that bans owning roosters and or chickens, which can be irritating to residents. Many municipalities, even those which permits residents to have farm animals, often ban roosters for reasons easily imaginable.

At the same time, the city did not have an ordinance on the book prohibiting the keeping of pigeons. Now this ordinance seeks to close the loophole and prohibit noisy roosters and the visually displeasing chicken coops, as well as pigeon ownership.

After resident pleas, council considers amendments

The ordinance was introduced in July, and seemingly set to pass in August. However, one resident’s heartfelt plea was enough to have the council table the ordinance at its August meeting during the public hearing.

Resident John Baginski is an accountant who lives on West 15th Street and is also the last person in Bayonne to care for homing pigeons. Baginski is not banned from owning homing pigeons under the ordinance, and is in fact grandfathered in.

At the public hearing, Baginski said that the city ordinances already makes it hard enough to get into the hobby of keeping homing pigeons and argued that they are not farm animals and should not be regulated as such. After a passionate discussion with the council, a vote on the ordinance was postponed until September to alter the language to allow for the care of homing pigeons in certain instances.

Since the public hearing was held in August, the City Council was set to only vote on the ordinance authorizing the ban at its September 21 meeting. Officials discussed the aforementioned changes that would follow the ordinance adoption prior to the regular council meeting at the caucus council meeting on September 14.

“Just for the record, I spoke with Mr. Baginski, the gentleman that came,” Law Director Jay Coffey said. “We’ve talked about language we can add to this. It would cause it to be heard and then because it would be substantial change, because we’re going to exempt homing pigeons… We actually crafted some language that will limit which homing pigeons.”

Coffey noted that homing pigeons would be excluded from the ordinance, but only qualified residents would be allowed to own them. Those who would be allowed to take care of homing pigeons must be a member of a homing pigeon society or an accredited homing pigeon group, Coffey said. The changes would not touch on “any other type of fowl,” he added.

Postponed until the October council meeting

Coffey clarified the original ordinance would be adopted in September, and the changes would be introduced simultaneously via an amendment. Then in October, the amendment to the ordinance enacting said changes would be up for a public hearing and vote by the council.

According to Coffey, 98 percent of the ordinance will remain as it is. The only changes to be heard in October will be the pigeon exclusion amendment.

However, when it came time to vote on the ordinance at the regular September meeting a week after the caucus, Coffey asked the council to postpone the vote until October. In addition, no amendments were introduced.

“This is the ordinance banning the breeding and raising of fowl. I would ask that this be carried at the municipal council’s discretion,” Coffey said on September 21. “There have been more conversations. In order to protect the homing pigeon individuals, we might reintroduce the entire ordinance in October. Although it could be that we’re just going to amend it as I said last week.”

The council then voted unanimously to postpone the ordinance until October. The next meeting is October 19 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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