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Animal rights group squawks over pigeon round-ups

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Updated: February 24, 2013 6:25AM

Chicago Ald. James Cappleman (46th) is in hot water with an animal rights group for giving an unidentified Indiana farmer the go-ahead to round up pigeons making life miserable for residents of the alderman’s North Side ward.

Janet Enoch of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness on Tuesday accused Cappleman of violating the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act for authorizing “three or four” recent pigeon round-ups in the parking lot adjacent to the CTA’s Lawrence station.

The animals rights group claims to have stopped pigeon shoots in Illinois decades ago. It’s now offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the identity of the Indiana farmer who approached Cappleman’s office seeking permission to corral pigeons.

“Capturing pigeons is an illegal activity. And if they’re being used for an illegal pigeon shoot, that’s even worse,” Enoch said.

“There are humane alternatives available for pigeon population control. Birth control pellets can be set out for them to eat to stop them from reproducing. You can put spike strips where pigeons roost. Those are non-lethal options. Rounding them up and killing them is not the solution.”

Cappleman could not be reached for comment about the pigeon round-ups.

Tressa Feher, Cappleman’s chief of staff, said the alderman’s office was approached by an Indiana man who “wanted to collect the pigeons and take them back to his farm” in response to media reports about Cappleman’s crackdown against pigeon feeding.

“We didn’t ask him to do it. He offered to do it. We don’t even know his name. We called Animal Control. They didn’t seem to have a problem with what he was doing. The police were out there,” Feher said.

“Pigeons aren’t protected by any laws that I know of. We’ve talked to Animal Control. We’ve talked to the police. As far as we know, there are no laws being broken. We have a huge pigeon problem. We’re not behind this. Someone came in and had the resources [to round up pigeons]. We said, `OK. Go ahead.’ “

Last month, Cappleman proposed a dramatic increase in the penalty for feeding pigeons on the public way: a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

The alderman complained that a pair of pigeon-feeders were making life miserable for his North Side constituents. They include a woman who allegedly attacked the alderman in May.

The alderman acknowledged that some of the people he accused of feeding the bottom-feeding birds 3 or 4 pounds of bread four times a day suffer from mental illness. But he made no apologies for getting tough.

“Come with me to the Wilson L station and the Lawrence L station, where we have around 800 pigeons that are now scaring people who are afraid to walk through a corridor,” he said.

“The CTA has said the pigeon excrement is about a-fourth-of-an-inch thick and they’ll clean it and within a week it’s back to the way it was before.”

Last summer, Cappleman was allegedly shoved and pelted with bread crumbs by an Uptown woman known as the “Pigeon Lady.” The 59-year-old woman was charged with battery for allegedly pushing him in a confrontation over feeding pigeons.

Cappleman said he saw bread crumbs on the ground near Broadway and Wilson and began to sweep them up, when the woman shoved him hard enough to push him into the street and then threw a handful of bread crumbs at him.

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