Thursday, November 29, 2007

Open Letter to Councilman Simcha Felder

November 29, 2007

City Council Member Simcha Felder
4424 16th Avenue
New York 11204

Dear Councilman Felder,

I am one of your Jewish neighbors in Philadelphia, PA, who spends a lot of time in New York. As such, I have heard about your pigeon issues and I would like to respectfully provide my comments.

Surely you are aware that one of the most important tenets of Judaism is kindness to animals, and in fact, the primary principle behind the treatment of animals in Jewish law is preventing the suffering of living creatures - tza'ar ba'alei chayim. I, therefore, find it disturbing and surprising that you have such an intense dislike of a harmless bird to the extent that you have forgotten our teachings and are proposing a rather exorbitant fee ($1,000 ???!) for feeding pigeons and have made numerous derogatory comments about the species.

One of my earliest and fondest childhood memories is of being with my father in Atlantic City, going into the Planters Peanuts shop with him and buying peanuts, which he crushed into small pieces, and feeding the pigeons with him. He entertained me by calling the pigeons by peoples’ names (“Hello Molly”, “How’s the family, Sammy”, etc.). I thought my father the most wondrous of all human beings – why, he actually knew the names of these birds! I learned kindness and respect to animals through my father in this way. While I am not opposed to reasonable consideration on feeding pigeons (people need to be respectful to neighbors and the environment and not create a problem, etc.), I think your fine is excessive and I also think it is rather heavy-handed. Worse, it removes an opportunity for grandparents, parents and children to interact with nature; our children are increasingly removed from the natural world today and are losing the knowledge of how to co-exist with nature. Our solution today to living with a variety of species is to kill them all when they become inconvenient. This is just wrong.

This brings me to my main point. We, of all people, who were treated as something less than human by the Nazis in concentration camps, should NEVER posit a similar opinion about one of God’s creations – that a pigeon deserves contempt while a robin, for instance, is okay. Does this not make us exactly like the people who tried to exterminate us? Your comments regarding foie gras and your insensitivity to the intense suffering of ducks and geese were equally unkind. Kindness and mercy are among the defining traits of the Jewish people and we are taught that anyone who shows kindness to animals demonstrates that he is descended from Abraham. Your actions and statements are contrary to this.

I think you need to do some little research about pigeons (and, for that matter, foie gras). They have never caused any disease (despite the best efforts of researchers to pin something on them, no proof has ever been found; they are no dirtier than any other wild bird; in fact, they do not get bird flu), they are exemplary parents, they are benign, harmless, rather friendly, never bite; expert navigators, they have saved countless lives in World Wars I and II, serving as message carriers (read up on a French pigeon named “Cher Ami”) and they are part of the dove family. Where would Noah have been without them? What is a city without pigeons? I cannot even imagine St. Marks Square or New York without these urban symbols.

If you want to blame filth and dirt problems somewhere, try humans. It is our species that creates garbage, disease and unsanitary conditions and is destroying this planet, not the pigeons. I have seen people miserable enough to deliberately run pigeons over with their cars and poison them. You tell me which species is better.

In the Bible, those who care for animals are heroes, while those who hunt animals are villains. Jacob, Moses and King David were all shepherds, people who cared for animals (Gen. 30, Ex. 31, I Sam. 17). The Talmud specifically states that Moses was chosen for his mission because of his skill in caring for animals. "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said 'Since you are merciful to the flock of a human being, you shall be the shepherd of My flock, Israel.'" Likewise, Rebecca was chosen as a wife for Isaac because of her kindness to animals. When Abraham's servant asked for water for himself, she volunteered to water his camels as well, and thereby proved herself a worthy wife (Gen. 24).

On the other hand, the two hunters in the Bible, Nimrod and Esau, are both depicted as villains. The Talmud tells the story of a great rabbi, Judah Ha-Nasi, who was punished with years of pain because he was insensitive to the fear of a calf being led to slaughter.

I sincerely hope that you will open your mind and re-think the pigeon situation. Perhaps more importantly, re-think your attitude toward ALL animals and remember that we are the Chosen People because we are the role models for the world. As such, we must demonstrate a higher ethic, the highest of which is kindness and compassion to all living things.

Very truly yours,

Arlene B. Steinberg
Philadelphia, PA 19115
The Talmud tells us that the great sage, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the compiler of the Mishna (the basic framework of the Talmud), was punished for an incident here he was insufficiently caring for an animal, and he was only relieved from his punishment when he showed mercy on some kittens.

There is a story told in the book Charedim by Rabbi Elazar Ezkari (d. 1600) About the Arizal - Rabbi Yitzchak Ashkenazi--the famous mystic of Tzefas, Israel--who was a contemporary of Rabbi Ezkari (who also lived in Tzefas). The Arizal once looked at the face of a certain Torah scholar and told him, "Your face is marked by the sin of causing pain to animals." The scholar was very disturbed. He investigated the matter and discovered that his wife did not feed their chickens in the morning but instead allowed them to wander through the yard and street to peck for food. He instructed his wife to prepare for them a mixture of bran-flour and water every morning. Shortly after he had done this he met the Arizal again and the Arizal informed him, without knowing about what he had done, that the sin was gone.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gun Lovers & City Leaders Driving NYC Pigeons to Extinction

Andrew Blechman op-ed on pigeon feeding ban in New York Times
November 25, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

WHILE a proposal by Councilman Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn,to ban the feeding of pigeons in New York City - and fine the violators- may speak to those who detest the humble rock dove, the proposition itself is sadly misguided.

Not only is the measure difficult to enforce - who wants to ticket toddlers and grandparents? - it skirts the real issue. While overfeeding does lead to overbreeding, the city's alleged overpopulation of pigeons has little to do with casual park bench encounters.

It has a lot more to do with the amount of litter we leave behind. It's important to remember that pigeons basically subsist on the food we drop. Pizza crusts, doughnuts, bagels, hot pretzels - sadly, these arethe cornerstones of many a modern pigeon's diet, instead of the seedsand grains they should be eating. The city can install trashcans that leak less garbage, as Mr. Felder suggests, but New Yorkers need to actually use them.

The other problem has to do with compulsive overfeeders. Every city has them. New York probably has a couple of dozen - or two - of them. These are the people who disperse 50 to 100 pounds of feed every day. They are generally eccentric loners who view flocks of pigeons as their friends-and their responsibility.

These people will continue to feed pigeons no matter what. If need be,they'll do it under the cover of darkness. The only way to handlehabitual overfeeders is to identify them, befriend them and urge them to stop. The city can also establish designated areas for feeding. For example, urban dovecotes, where weekly egg culling retards population growth, are a perfect place to encourage bird feeders.

If New York is truly concerned about harnessing its pigeon population,then a comprehensive and coordinated strategy is needed, and there are a number of national animal-rights groups that can help. Such an effort would include controlled breeding in urban dovecotes, increased deterrent measures like netting and possibly feedlaced with birth control drugs. Most important, the public must be thoroughly educated about the hazards of overfeeding, which harms everyone, pigeons included. (Overbreeding stresses the pigeon population and can lead to starvation.)

To be sure, Councilman Felder suggested some of these measures in his report to the City Council, but the question remains: Are pigeons reallythe problem? Like all living creatures, pigeons defecate. If that's a crime, then perhaps we should target squirrels for filching the city's acorns. Or instead, maybe we should celebrate the wildlife that is thankfully still in our midst.

Pigeons, squirrels, sparrows and the like animate our often-drab urbanvista and give us something natural to marvel at. Indeed, Cornell University runs Project PigeonWatch, which encourages the city's school children to study pigeons as an introduction to the wonders of urban wildlife.

Moreover, pigeons pose little to no threat to human health. Their modern-day reputation as filthy disease carriers is unwarranted. Nor are they stupid. In addition to their heroic history and unparalleled athleticism, pigeons are among the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom. They mate for life and are wonderful parents as well.

And if you happen to appreciate pigeons, you are in good company. The Queen of England, Paul Newman and Mike Tyson are all pigeon fanciers.

Unfortunately, an irrational hatred of pigeons has led to their daily abuse. In addition to the use of poisons and caustic gels by landlordsto drive away birds, thousands of pigeons are poached weekly from citystreets and taken to Pennsylvania gun clubs where they are used as target fodder in lieu of clay pigeons. This brutal practice has been brought to the city's attention, but to no avail. After all, they're just pigeons....

It's true that wildlife can be inconvenient; nobody enjoys a windowledge or car hood splattered with excrement. But that doesn't mean we should persecute the animals in our midst, let alone those New Yorkers who appreciate and care for them. Councilman Felder's policy is flawed precisely because it fails to see this reality.

Andrew D. Blechman is the author of "Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga ofthe World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird."

Interested in taking action online to help animals? Then join our online community! Go to:

Personal Comment (Tales & Tails of New York):

It is beyond comprehension how anyone could complain about the number of pigeons now in New York City.

In the above (emphasis supplied) essay, it states that thousands of pigeons are being netted weekly in NYC and sent to Pennsylvania gun clubs where they are used as "targets."

With this kind of continued and unabetted cruelty and assault on our urban population of birds, it won't take long for pigeons to go the way of the Do Do bird.

Already, the pigeon population in Manhattan has been severely decimated.
In another 5 years or so, there won't be any.

About 8 or 9 months ago, I yelled at two men netting pigeons on the corner of Lexington Avenue in the East 80's. Although there were many people around, NO ONE assisted me in trying to stop these men. I got the licence number of the car they threw the pigeons into and reported it to the ASPCA. The ASPCA never even returned my call.

Small wonder the men conducting this henious deed every day have NO FEAR to do it out in the open and even in front of crowds of people. They certainly have no fear of the ASPCA.
The ASPCA is no friend to the animals in allowing -- and tacitly supporting this kind of blatent cruelty to animals.

Anyone supporting the ASPCA should no longer do so and let them know WHY. -- PCA


Councilman Wants Birth Control for Pigeons

A councilman has a unique solution to reducing the pigeon population at the Staten Island ferry terminals: Put them on birth control.

Councilman James Odd says OvoControl-P, a drug that renders pigeon eggs unhatchable, could help to thin out the pesky birds and thus the droppings they leave behind inside the terminals where they like to nest.

Oddo says the drug - which would be mixed into standard seed - has not yet been approved for pigeons by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A similar product meant for geese was given the OK last month.

Information from: Staten Island Advance

Monday, November 26, 2007

Protest Planned for Pigeon Feeding Ban Proposal - Friday, November 30th

Protest Planned for Pigeon Feeding Ban Proposal

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pigeon partisans are blasting back at a New York City councilman's proposal to ban feeding the ubiquitous birds.The New York Bird Club and others plan to demonstrate this afternoon in front of City Hall. They say pigeons are peaceful, gentle creatures. And they note that the birds served as flying messengers for American and allied forces in World Wars I and II. But Councilman Simcha Felder sees pigeons as pests. He says they excrete an average 25 pounds of droppings each year, and those droppings can rust steel and corrode infrastructure.Felder is proposing a $1,000 fine for feeding the birds, among other measures to try to trim the city's pigeon population.
Bird lovers are planning to flock to City Hall today to protest a proposal to outlaw pigeon feeding. The New York Bird Club and others say the birds are peaceful, gentle creatures. They also note the birds have even served their country as flying messengers for American forces during the first and second world wars. Councilman Simcha Felder says pigeon droppings can rust steel and corrode infrastructure. Felder is proposing a $1,000 fine for feeding the birds, as well as other measures to trim the city's pigeon population.

Where: Steps of City Hall, New York, NY Located within the small City Hall Park in lower Manhattan between Broadway, Park Row and Chambers Street.
Subway: 4,5,6 to Brooklyn Bridge - City Hall; R,W,N,R to City Hall; A,C,J,M,2,3 to Chambers Street.

When: Friday, November 30th at noon to 1.

The New York Bird Club and animal rights groups will hold a press conference and demonstration outside the steps of City Hall on November 30th from noon to 1 pm in opposition to Councilman Simcha Felder proposal to issue a fine of $1,000 to anyone caught feeding a pigeon.

reference: Councilman Felder's proposal

We feel the proposal is frivolous, inaccurate and lacking in merit, and is it coincidence that the proposal emerges at a time when there is new construction of high rise apartment buildings almost everywhere in Manhattan.

The proposal cites:

1. Overfeeding which encourages pigeon reproduction.
The Wild Bird Fund who rehabilitate the majority of injured wildlife (pigeons) estimate that there are approximately a dozen people in the metro area who feed pigeons regularly. When you consider there are approximately 9,000,000 million people living in NYC, this is an insignificant amount. There are no facts to support and it is erroneous to state, that wildlife will multiply solely according to their food supply; other factors such as safety, habitat and well being must be present as well, which are surely lacking in the pigeons' existence. Everyday they are faced with predators and danger such as being baited and netted, poisoned, maimed, and trapped both legally and illegally; not to mention being shooed away and regarded as garbage by the average ignorant person, and hawks released into the City for the sole purpose of killing them.

2. Disease.
See proposal: cases of civilians contracting diseases from pigeons or pigeon droppings are rare and the threat is often exaggerated.

3. Infrastructural damage to building.
Proposal is erroneous (see Minneapolis, Minnesota bridge). It was later established that the bridge did not collapse due to pigeon excrement.
CNN report: "In 2005, the 40-year-old bridge had been rated as "structurally deficient" and possibly in need of replacement, according to a federal database. The span rated 50 on a scale of 120 for structural stability in that review, White House press secretary Tony Snow said."
There have been no major incidents of infrastructural damage to buildings in New York City.

Pigeons co-exist peacefully in our city with people, are not predatory in nature and when feeling safe, will come to you and gently and gratefully accept a morsel of nourishment from your hand. Pigeons are gentle, sweet benign creatures who have helped us in wars and saved lives, and it is ethically and morally wrong to treat our fellow inhabitants this way. By enacting the proposal, the message to children -- who are New York City's future, is loud and clear, DO NOT CARE FOR WILDLIFE, DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE. Even if a child wants to interact with any wildlife, he/she will be reprimanded from doing so because wildlife is insignificant, unworthy of respect and a fine will be issued. Children will grow up to become callous and insensitive adults since pigeons will not be the only wildlife who will be affected by new legislation should it come to pass, because one will not feed a squirrel, sparrow or duck for fear a pigeon may join the flock.

Councilman Felder has responded to the outcry of pigeon advocates by saying that those who like pigeons should take them into our homes. I suggest the Councilman read up on NYC law since it is against the law to bring a pigeon into your dwelling, and pigeons are feral wildlife and should be treated as such.

The repurcussions of taking away New Yorkers' right to feed a bird should we choose to do so, is that other inhumane and meaningless legislation may follow, designed only to generate income for the City without regard to its wildlife, nature or it's people. The proposed plan is senseless and cruel, and the people respectfully ask that it not be permitted to pass into our law.

Please attend to rally and show your support in opposition to the proposal.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Subject of a Picture Not Taken

From Tales and Tails of New York:

It was a peaceful, but questionable and in some ways, disquieting Thanksgiving.

The weather in NYC was unusually warm yesterday with temperatures in the 60's.

I headed out to Central Park with Tina and Baby around 11AM and was surprised by the seemingly thousands of people already taking advantage of the beautiful fall day in the park.

I had a goal to take some pictures of pigeons, as they have become a subject of discussion in recent days.

But, to my great surprise, there were few pigeons to actually be seen!

The dogs and I had already walked around the bridal path (which no longer contains horses) surrounding the Jackie Onassia Reservoir before we saw any pigeons at all!

The pigeons flew in a few small flocks near the Great Lawn. And though a few birds occasionally descented towards the grass to seek tidbits or take a sip of water, as soon as I tried to get a little close with my camera, they immediately took off.

I was not able to get any pictures of the few pigeons I saw.

I don't recall NYC pigeons ever appearing to be so fearful of people before!

What presumably should or would have been an easy task on any day or year of the past, yesterday, was impossible.

Have pigeons wised up to one City Councilman's (and the ASPCA's) plan to rid NYC of pigeons through proposed legislation?

Have those guys who have been "netting" pigeons around the city, (and who I reported to the ASPCA without results) succeeded in killing a good part of our natural, urban wildlife? Or, has NYC itself, already embarked on some kind of "extermination" of pigeons without telling its citizens?

I don't know.

Usually, I take the dogs to the park in the evenings when sightings of pigeons or squirrels would not be expected.

Occasionally, in the evenings, one sees a raccoon scurrying up a tree. It is easy and always lovely to see the ducks swimming peacefully in the waters of the Reservoir. This is actually my very favorite sight in all of NYC. -- the Central Park ducks.

But, yesterday, I couldn't help wondering about the pigeons?

I recalled how, in the early 70's my husband and I would take bags of bread and peanuts to Central Park and within minutes, have hundreds of pigeons flying close to us for treats and dozens of squirrels scurrying up for the nuts. The more courageous (or hungry) pigeons would even take bread from our hands!

It would have been so easy to get pigeon pictures, then.

Today, we would be arrested for doing the exact, same thing.

It all sadly reminds me of the old, Joni Mitchell hit, "Big, Yellow Taxi:"

"Don't it always go to show, that you don't know what you've got till its gone?"

Pigeons aren't gone from the park, but they are certainly in much lower numbers now than they used to be.

Most significantly though, pigeons are now, seemingly, very afraid of and avoiding of people -- unfortunately, for good reason.

Pigeons are thus, the subject of this entry, but a picture, never taken. -- PCA

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pigeons Are War Heroes

Felder's announcement Monday was somewhat timely, as Nov. 12 was the day we observed Veterans Day, honoring America's wartime heroes. But few remembered that thousands of American and allied forces were saved in World Wars I and II by pigeons. Pigeons?

For centuries, pigeons were used to carry important messages in wartime when communication lines were down, according to Andrew Blechman in his book, "Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird."

Blechman recounts one instance of the birds' heroism in the story of the U.S. Army's 77th Division, later known as the Lost Battalion, in World War I. The battalion was trapped behind enemy lines while American troops 25 miles away, unaware of the 77th's position, unleashed a massive artillery attack on them. The desperate soldiers wrote a message: "Our artillery is dropping a barrage on us. For heaven's sake, stop it!" and attached it to their carrier pigeon, Cher Ami.

Blechman writes:
The soldier uncupped his hands and watched the bird flap its wings and gain altitude. The Germans also saw the pigeon and trained their rifles on it. A hail of bullets whizzed through the air and several hit Cher Ami. He quickly lost altitude and plummeted toward the ground. But moments before crashing, the bird somehow managed to spread his wings again and start climbing, higher and higher, until he was out of rifle range.

Twenty minutes later and back on friendly terrain, Cher Ami landed at headquarters. A soldier ran to the bird and found him lying on its back, covered in blood. One eye and part of the cranium had been blown away, and its breast had been ripped open. A silver canister containing the Lost Battalion's desperate plea dangled from a few tendons -- all that remained of the bird's severed leg. Bewildered, the soldier rushed the message to his commanding officer. The American artillery fell silent, and the last remains of the Lost Battalion were saved.

One hundred and ninety-four remaining members of the Lost Battalion were saved that day by a pigeon. Cher Ami died of his war wounds months later, and today can be seen, stuffed, tattered, but still standing on his one leg, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., a testament to the character of the animals so many cities are trying to eliminate.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

ASPCA Issues Statement on New York City's Pigeon Population

Tuesday, November 13, 2007
By: Amy Geduldig

Councilman Simcha Felder Proposes Bill to Prohibit Feeding Pigeons

NEW YORK--The ASPCA has recently learned of Councilman Simcha Felder's bill proposal to fine those found feeding pigeons in New York City. As an advocate for all animals, with a special interest in the animals located in our own city, we support this provision for a variety of reasons:

The pigeon population is well-known among New Yorkers and not usually very well received. Therefore, while we appreciate these creatures as part of our regional landscape, we also acknowledge that it is important to maintain their population so that they do not impede the health and sanctity of our city.

By nature, pigeons are extremely resourceful cliff-dwelling birds, who are particularly adept at securing nesting places among the many hi-rises and bridges throughout the five boroughs. This hardy constitution enables the birds to breed prolifically. As such, New York has become the home to an astronomical number of these creatures.

In order to curb the extensive pigeon population, the City has adopted a number of solutions to maintain a healthy environment. Key among these provisions is the issuing of summonses to those found feeding the pigeons in violation of Health Code regulations. Providing food for pigeons not only causes an influx of birds to the area, but can also attract unwanted rodents and insects as well, thereby contaminating an area in a very short amount of time.

Councilman Felder's proposal is one that will ensure the pigeons will not be encouraged to reproduce by otherwise well-meaning citizens. We hope to work directly with the Councilman in order to ensure that the animals and people of New York City are treated with the respect and dignity they so deserve.

ASPCA Issue Statement on NYC's Pigeon Population

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Understanding Zoonotic Diseases of Pigeons in NYC

Dr. Anthony A. Pilny, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian):

The frequency of disease transmission from birds to humans is very LOW, but the young, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems should be cautious as bird to human disease transmission is known to occur. Many of these diseases are transmitted by ingestion of food contaminated by fecal matter. Prevention of most of these diseases, therefore, simply involves proper hygiene and sanitation, and common sense. Contact with pigeon droppings may pose a SMALL health risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists three human diseases known to be associated with birds (including pet birds such a parrots) and associated with pigeons/droppings: histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and psittacosis.


Psittacosis - Since 1996, fewer than 50 confirmed cases were reported in the United States annually. In New York City, psittacosis is VERY RARE with less than ONE human case identified each year. According to the CDC, about 70% of infected people had contact with infected pet birds – not pigeons.

Cryptococcosis - Approximately 0.4-1.3 cases per 100,000 people in the general population are reported. It is very unlikely that healthy people will become infected even at high levels of exposure.

Histoplasmosis – An incidence is not reported so it is assumed to be low. Once again immunocompromised individuals are at greater risk and those in third world countries.

As one can see – risk of contracting disease from pigeons in NYC is very low and has not been proven to pose any public health threat. Diagnostic screening (medical testing) of the pigeon population in NYC for the few zoonotic diseases that exist has not been performed and would definitely shed light on the true incidence and risk. Routine cleaning of droppings (e.g. from windowsills) does NOT pose a serious health risk to most people. Some simple precautions can be taken to further reduce direct contact with droppings, such as wearing disposable gloves and clothes that can be washed after exposure.

As far as I know – NYC hospitals are not inundated with patients sick from living in an environment with pigeons. As an avian veterinarian who sees and treats pigeons, I believe there is little risk to myself and staff from working with these birds. I don’t have fear of becoming ill by walking around and visiting the parks, or just living here in NYC with our wonderful pigeons.


Anthony A. Pilny, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian)

New York City Health Department:

Despite their reputation as disease carriers, the city Health Department does not consider pigeons a major danger and says the average New Yorker is not at risk of catching anything from the birds or their droppings.

Source: ABC News, New York, NY

Manhattan Albert Einstein College of Medicine:

Dr. Arturo Casadevall (one of the world's foremost experts in pigeon poop)
Director of Division of Infectious Diseases
Manhattan Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Picking on pigeons is unwarranted, Casadevall warns. "Pigeons are no different than other animals. When it comes to spreading disease, they don’t stand out. Dogs can have worms; bats, rabies; cats, toxoplasmosis . . . We’re exposed to microbes everywhere. You can get diseases from any animal, even a cockatoo. To single out pigeons is unfair.”


The following are quotes from credible experts with the REAL FACTS about pigeons and public health: -

TV series segment, Healthier Living, shows how feeding wild pigeons helps relieve the stresses of day to day living.

"...diseases associated with [pigeons] present little risk to people..."
Dr. Michael McNeil, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.

"One man's nuisance is another man's pleasure." "'People worry that pigeons carry disease,' but the danger is 'an exaggeration created by pest control companies looking for business.'" -
Guy Hodge, Naturalist for the Humane Society of the United States.

"The New York City Department of Health has no documented cases of communicable disease transmitted from pigeons to humans." -
Dr. Manuel Vargas, New York City Department of Health.

"Pigeons are not a public health hazard. Nobody in public health is losing any sleep over pigeons." -
Dr. Joel McCullough, Medical Director, Environmental Health, Chicago Department of Public Health.

"[...the Arizona Department of Health Services does] not have any documented human cases of disease which have been definitively linked to outdoor pigeons or pigeon droppings. When cases of diseases are reported (and by law [certain bird related zoonoses are] reportable diseases), VBZD staff conduct complete investigations to confirm the diagnosis and identify the source of infection. …Our case investigation data gathered so far, would suggest that pigeons are not significant as a cause of human disease in Arizona."

“We don’t see pigeon-related-disease problems...” “I don’t think they’re seeing them anywhere..." -
Bill Kottkamp, Supervisor, Vector Control, St. Louis County Health Department

"Pigeons do not get avian influenza and don't carry the virus."
Dr. Cornelius Kiley, DVM, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Although pigeons have been shown to become infected with West Nile Virus, they do not act as reservoirs and therefore don't transmit the virus..." -
Pennsylvania West Nile Virus Surveillance Program.

As a result, pigeons are generally no longer accepted for West Nile Virus testing by other government disease-surveillance agencies in the U.S and elsewhere.

“We do have some concern about the indiscriminate killing of pigeons.” “[For example, histoplasmosis disease rates are] misleading and irrelevant, because histo’s so ubiquitous. It’s in the soil, regardless of whether pigeons are around or not...”-
Dr. Marshall Lyon, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta

“Problematic density [affecting human safety] is probably more determined by people getting their possessions defaced.” “I’m not terribly worried about pigeons.” -
Dr. Alex Bermudez, University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine

"I am not aware of any reported cases of diseases that were transmitted by pigeons in Mohave County." -
Larry Webert, R.S., Mohave County Environmental Health Division

"Pigeons aren't a big worry" -
Rex Sohn, wildlife disease specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis.

Pigeon-Rights Groups Rush to Defend Their Feathered Friends

November 17, 2007
The New York Times

Pigeon-Rights Groups Rush to Defend Their Feathered Friends


When Councilman Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn, announced on Monday that he was going to introduce legislation that would make feeding pigeons an offense punishable by a fine, he made plain his feelings about “rats with wings,” a phrase used by a parks commissioner, Thomas P. F. Hoving, in the 1960s and popularized by Woody Allen in his 1980 film “Stardust Memories.”

At City Hall the next day, the Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, who was careful not to express an opinion on Mr. Felder’s proposal, chimed in that she, too, had no love of pigeons and had no use for what she considered “flying rats.”

The pigeon backlash has now begun.

About a dozen or so of the city’s leading pigeon advocates gathered for an emergency meeting on Wednesday night on the second floor of a Starbucks on the Upper East Side to plan a counteroffensive.

The meeting was called by Anna Dove, the founder and president of the New York Bird Club, which claims 60 members and is one of the two leading pigeon-rights groups in the city. Ms. Dove legally changed her last name from Kugelmas in honor of her dove, Lucy.

Al Streit, director of Pigeon People, a rescue and advocacy group that claims 200 members in its online discussion group, was also there, as were representatives from the New York City Pigeon Rescue Center, Win Animal Rights and other pro-pigeon organizations.

“Don’t people realize that this is an extraordinary bird?” asked Mary Beyerbach, a member of the New York Bird Club, who noted the heroics of Cher Ami, a homing pigeon who is credited with saving 194 American lives in France during World War I, earning him the Croix de Guerre. “A pigeon has never attacked a person,” she said. “A rat has.”

Unlike some animal rights groups, which favor humane methods of reducing the pigeon population, these activists are opposed to any governmental intervention into the lives of what they say are unjustly maligned creatures.

Ms. Dove called Mr. Felder’s plan “more scapegoating of pigeons,” with the intention of eliminating them from the city altogether. Colin Jerolmack, who was also at the meeting, characterized the idea as another attempt to “criminalize behavior in the public space.” Mr. Streit noted that the pigeon had few defenders. “Is there a reason to control this species?” he said. “The answer is no.”

In a report released this week, Councilman Felder, beyond seeking to ban pigeon feeding, called for the introduction of pigeon-scaring hawks and falcons, an increase in the frequency of litter pickup in enclosed trash cans, use of pigeon birth control methods and the appointment of a pigeon czar who would coordinate the city’s response to the abundant pigeon population.
The report said that an excess of pigeons created an excess of pigeon excrement, which some people blame for damaging infrastructure and carrying communicable diseases.

But pigeon advocates scoffed at the suggestion that pigeon excrement was sickening humans or harming bridges and roads. In fact, Mr. Felder’s report concedes that “cases of civilians contracting diseases from pigeons or pigeon droppings are rare and the threat is often exaggerated.” And the report quotes a pigeon-control expert who called reports of infrastructure damage caused by pigeons “widely exaggerated.”

Another expert, Andrew D. Blechman, author of “Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird,” said, “Pigeons don’t carry any more disease than you or I do.”
Still, groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recognize the need to curb the pigeon population, which according to some estimates now tops one million in New York City.

Michael McGraw, a spokesman for PETA, said that the organization would support a feeding ban if it included a controlled-feeding program that would administer a contraceptive called OvoControl, which is one of Mr. Felder’s recommendations. PETA has supported a similar program in Los Angeles.

The A.S.P.C.A., which also supports administering pigeon birth control, is in favor of a ban on pigeon feeding, said Stephen Musso, the A.S.P.C.A.’s chief of operations. “There’s no reason to feed these birds, because they are quite resourceful,” he said.

Councilman Felder denied harboring any antipigeon animus. “I think people are pretty smart,” he said. “People in New York are pretty shrewd. They know what’s a problem and what’s not a problem. And if there is something we can do, even to improve it somewhat, that is a good thing.” He said that he had received “overwhelming support” from fellow council members.
Mr. Felder said he expected his proposal, which he plans to introduce next month, to include a feeding ban punishable by a $1,000 fine. In the meantime, ardent pigeon advocates are preparing to take their message to the public. They are organizing a demonstration on the steps of City Hall on Nov. 30.

During the meeting at Starbucks, the group discussed what to say in a planned informational flier, wondered how much it would cost to produce a banner and debated the best way to sway the public. Toward the end of the meeting, Ms. Dove asked the group, “How about having someone dress up in a pigeon costume?”