Threats to Bird Keeping by J. Paul Stevens

The keeping of birds is a very popular hobby for many people. Pet owners and Aviculturists derive great pleasure from keeping and breeding a wide array of species. Along with the pleasure that comes from bird keeping, there is a responsibility to provide proper care and to maintain sustainable captive populations for the enjoyment of future generations. Aviculturists have contributed to the maintenance of sustainable captive populations of many wild species. Some species that have disappeared from their wild habitat have been saved from extinction through captive breeding.

Across Canada, citizens are experiencing greater restrictions on keeping birds and other animals. These restrictions are often created by local municipalities. For example, the City of Toronto is undertaking a review of some of their regulations on animal control. Toronto limits the species that may be kept by way of a prohibited list for various classes of animals. There is a current proposal to add three additional orders of birds to the prohibited list. However a motion has also been presented to Council to approve a pilot program permitting backyard hens. This is a step forward and if approved could potentially be a step towards permitting other small gallinaceous species such as quail. In contrast another motion to be considered in early October recommends the development of a “positive list” system of animal control for Toronto. The title of positive list is misleading since it starts by banning all animals and then creates a small list of species that would be allowed. This would be disastrous for people keeping many different species of birds and other animals and for the City attempting to administer animal control programs.

There are many groups throughout Canada and United States that are recommending more regulations at all levels of government on people keeping birds and other animals. Two recent news releases illustrate the situation. Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) called for more regulations and oversight of exotic animals in private residences and suggested that people keeping them lack knowledge of how to care for their needs. This claim fails to recognize the tremendous expertise of private aviculturists. In another news release, the Ontario SPCA requested the Ontario government place more regulations on zoos. They also requested that “every municipality in the province ensures local by-laws are in place to prohibit zoos that exist solely for commercial gain and prohibit private ownership of exotic wildlife.” This request to prohibit private ownership of exotic wildlife ignores the interests of thousands of citizens and fails to recognize the important contributions of aviculturists to conservation. Private aviculturists aid in the establishment of sustainable captive populations of rare species. Talk to your municipal government officials and help to educate them about the important and responsible work of people keeping birds and other exotic wildlife. Aviculture needs a legislative environment that promotes the care and welfare of animals, recognizes the interests and rights of citizens and enables the maintenance of sustainable captive populations of wildlife.

Although the OSPCA has been given the responsibility to enforce animal welfare legislation in Ontario there is concern that it oversteps its intended role. There is currently a challenge before the courts that the OSPCA Act violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to Section 7 of the Charter, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of the person, and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Section 8 is also in place to ensure “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.” The Charter challenge claims that the OSPCA Act restricts the rights of citizens and it does not accord with the principles of fundamental justice. Movement through the courts takes time, but we will keep you informed of any updates on the challenge. Please let us know about legislation issues affecting your ability to keep birds and other exotic wildlife in your area.

J. Paul Stevens, Ph.D., Legislation Committee Chair,
Avicultural Advancement Council of Canada (AACC) and the COP&GBA.

This article was published in Canadian Ornamental Pheasant & Game Bird Association Magazine September/October 2017.