Lt. Ryan Russell

Lt. Ryan Russell, the city’s code compliance director, took this photo of pigeons roosting in a residential backyard. City Council on Monday is expected to raise fines for people caught feeding the pesky birds.

Feeding pigeons in Mesa may soon become illegal and expensive, carrying as much as a $250 fine for the first offense, as the city attempts to crack down on pigeon poop.

The newly modified nuisance ordinance, expected to be approved by the Mesa City Council tomorrow, Aug. 26, would mimic similar laws passed in Tempe and Phoenix.

Lt. Ryan Russell, the city’s code compliance director, elicited a few chuckles at a recent council study session when he noted why pigeons create sanitation problems.

“Pigeons and doves can defecate up to 30 times a day. It creates a significant health and safety issue in our neighborhoods,’’ Russell said.

While Russell’s comments prompted a few laughs, he said it’s no laughing matter when someone installs a large bird feeder in their backyard and supplies pigeons with food.

The reaction is predictable and irritating, with hundreds of birds descending upon the bird feeder and pelting nearby houses and cars with bird droppings, Russell said.

The acidic bird droppings can damage paint and also potentially carry diseases, in addition to being highly unsightly.

“This stems from the Tempe ordinance and the Phoenix ordinance. We got lots of citizen feedback to mimic the Phoenix ordinance and prohibit the feeding of pigeons and doves,’’ Russell said.

The Phoenix City Council passed a similar law in June in response to complaints from residents who were tired of their neighbors feeding the birds and creating a sanitation issue.

The Phoenix law kept the fine at $150 and required a signed complaint from three neighbors, according media reports. 

The Mesa ordinance has no such requirement. The city also is increasing its schedule of fines on all nuisance violations from $150 to $250 for a first offense; from $250 to $350 for a second offense; the present $500 fine for a third offense remains unchanged.

 Most of the nuisance laws are aimed at encouraging property owners to keep up their property, with tall weeds and grass a common complaint.

 The other revisions are less dramatic than the pigeon feeding ban.

They require residents to make sure their house number is legible so that their property can be found by police and fire personnel. Another allows residents to park their boats and recreational vehicles in their driveways for 48 hours or less for loading, unloading and cleaning.

Russell said it would be a technical violation of Mesa’s proposed ordinance to feed a pigeon a crumb or two on the patio of restaurant, but that’s not the focus of the new regulation.

“That’s not our intent in creating this ordinance,’’ he said. “It’s people in the neighborhoods who feed hundreds of birds a day.’’

He said Mesa has no intention of deterring residents from feeding smaller birds such as finches, using smaller feeders designed for that purpose. 

Mesa’s code compliance office has a team of 13 inspectors who investigate potential violations, but Russell said that citing someone for feeding pigeons will be a last resort.

He said there will be a long education period after the law takes effect in October and the hope is that people will voluntarily comply after learning about the new pigeon feeding ban.

“Our intent is to give people as many opportunities as possible, but if people disregard it, we can give them citations,’’ Russell said.

Based upon Tempe’s reaction to their ordinance, Russell anticipates that Mesa will “get a good cluster (of complaints) right out of the gate” from residents who are tired of having their homes and cars hit by bird droppings.

Vice Mayor Mark Freeman asked whether the city had considered taking action against the feeding of feral cats. He said he has received complaints from several residents in his north Mesa district.

But City Manager Chris Brady quickly diffused that, saying that there are many people who are passionate about feral cats and that he would never consider such a ban without consulting animal control officers.

A Gilbert ban on feeding feral cats on town property — which carries fines for violators — has led to conflicts between cat lovers and the town.

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