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Archive for Sunday, July 16, 2000

City forces birds to fly the coop

July 16, 2000

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— Imagine hundreds of pigeons flying and squawking above your building. Now try to picture liking it.

That was the case for a Joplin man who welcomed about 700 pigeons above his paint warehouse. But the sights, sounds and other treats pigeons leave behind are fading away. The city forced Bob Gaskill to get rid of the birds.

Earl Lawson, who lives north of Joplin, said he took some of the pigeons to help in raising his own homing pigeons and gave others away.

"It's too bad Bob had to lose his pigeons," Lawson said. "He really liked them so well."

Gaskill said he was told to remove the birds one way or another before the week ended. He's nearly done so, and the city did not come to his property to shoot the remaining birds, as the law allows.

Gaskill's fondness for the feathered creatures has drawn complaints from neighbors.

Russell Hay, who lives nearby, said he doesn't have a problem with Gaskill feeding the pigeons, but said the warehouse had become a "haven for the birds."

"My house is short, so they don't generally land on it, but they fly overhead and poop everywhere. It's enough that it does cause problems," Hay said.

It's also costing Gaskill $844, and he must repair the warehouse windows to keep the birds out. Those results stem from his guilty plea more than a week ago in Joplin Municipal Court to two counts of allowing a "prohibited condition of infestation" and one count of feeding pigeons.

"I enjoy feeding the pigeons," Gaskill said. "Why do people enjoy playing golf? I could go knock a ball 200 yards and go chase it, but I'd rather feed pigeons."

However, the city health department says pigeon droppings are a health hazard, and that's why the ordinance is there.

"The ordinance does not affect all birds, but because pigeons can be disease carriers, it was written that way," explained Becky Heffren, a health coordinator with the Joplin Health Department.

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