By Ron Leir
EAST NEWARK –
If East Newark has its way, some of the borough’s aviary population will no longer be relying on friendly bipeds for culinary handouts.
That’s because the governing body has voted to introduce an ordinance – up for public hearing next month – forbidding folks from feeding pigeons in the streets for the protection of public health and property.
Neil Marotta, the borough attorney, said the proposed legislation would amend the borough’s animal control code to deal with an issue he characterized as “pigeon infestation.”
“People are feeding them everywhere,” Marotta said. “There are hundreds of them and they’re making a mess.”
Residents’ generosity is misguided, Marotta said, because the mass feedings tend to “attract rats and vermin, plus (the birds) carry disease that’s harmful to the young and old (people).”
Mayor Joseph Smith credited John St. resident (and neighbor) Jim Lynch with bringing the matter front and center by griping about the pigeons at a Borough Council meeting last month.
A retired sheet metal worker who came to the U.S. from his native Scotland some 40 years ago, Lynch said he’s never seen such a blight on the land.
“I see people feeding the pigeons all the time,” he sighed. “It’s a health problem, particularly with children playing in the streets. I tell the people when you feed them bread, it’s like they get on their cell phones and call each other to come and get it.”
“Plus,” Lynch continued, “they’re sitting on rooftops and crapping all over. It’s a problem for the cars, too.”
Smith agreed that the pesty birds are “crapping on houses and cars.”
It’s not uncommon, the mayor said, to see as many “20 to 30 of them congregating on the street. It’s like watching Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds.’ And they bring rats and mice.”
If the ordinance passes a public hearing, tentatively slated for Jan. 9, it be up to the local gendarmes and/or health officer to enforce the law, which, Marotta said, he modeled after similar legislation passed in Maywood and San Francisco.
The ordinance, as introduced Dec. 27, reads: “The Borough hereby finds that a large pigeon population is a health hazard and creates many problems …. Pigeon droppings dirty public spaces, do costly damage to buildings, and can spread life-threatening diseases, especially to the elderly and immune-deficient. Their nesting materials block drains and harbor parasites like bird mites. Pigeon food makes a mess and attracts rats.”
The ordinance also warns that feeding pigeons “produces overbreeding” and that “overfed city pigeons can breed up to eight times a year” instead of the normal “two to three times a year.” And overpopulation “leads to … unsanitary conditions and produces sick and injured birds.” Moreover, the ordinance says, giving bread, etc., to the birds is actually “causing harm” to them because “they lose their natural ability to scavenge and survive on their own.”
Therefore, no one in the borough “shall … attract or attempt to attract pigeons by means of feeding or the placing of quantities of bread, crackers, meal or any other food generally known to attract pigeons….”
Additionally, residents cannot “keep, raise, breed or sell pigeons,” nor can they “build or maintain a shelter or coop for the keeping of pigeons” in East Newark.
Pigeon feeders can be fined up to $1,200 – at the discretion of the municipal court – so, beware!