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Vancouver woman allowed to keep guinea fowls for ‘pure joy of companionship’

Court dismissed city bylaw charge, ruling birds were pets, not poultry
A B.C. judge ruled a Vancouver woman is allowed to keep her two guinea fowl hens, saying they fall under the category of exotic bird pets in the city’s animal control bylaw. (Pixabay/mirceaadrian72)

A Vancouver woman is allowed to keep her two backyard guinea fowl hens, after she successfully argued they are pets, not poultry.

Arielle Reid was charged under the city’s animal control bylaw last September for refusing to hand over her birds. In provincial court this year, however, she convinced the judicial justice she wasn’t keeping the guinea fowls for their eggs or meat, but simply for the pleasure of having them around.

In Vancouver, residents are prohibited from keeping farm animals, such as horses, swine, sheep, goats and ducks. They are also not allowed to have “poultry or fowl.” But the same bylaw does allow residents to keep up to 12 “exotic birds of all species.”

It was on this point that Reid successfully argued her case. She explained to the judge that she was raised in Jamaica and spent two years in Mozambique, West Africa, both places where guinea fowls are regularly treated as pets. Reid said she hand raised her birds and keeps them in a coop in her backyard.

She said because guinea fowls are not native to B.C., they can be considered an exotic bird.

Judicial Justice Zahid Makhdoom noted in his Sept. 12 decision that it was unlikely Reid was keeping the birds for the purpose of food, as they lay relatively few eggs and are “gamey and tough” when eaten. Instead, Makhdoom said he was convinced Reid was keeping the birds for the same reason people have cats or dogs: “the pure joy of their companionship.”

Makhdoom recognized it was a noise complaint that first caused bylaw to investigate the birds – which an attending officer described as “a couple of rather chatty guinea fowls” – but said they shouldn’t be treated any differently than other pets that can cause nuisances. After all, Makhdoom pointed out, dogs get away with barking and cats get away with killing wild birds.

He ruled to dismiss the charge against Reid.

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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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