March 6, 2009

Vancouver’s legal chickens raise concerns

Canadian animal protection groups have raised concerns about the Vancouver City Council's vote to legalize the keeping of chickens in the city.

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Vancouver Humane Society warned that many city residents would be clueless as to how to care for hens, specifically where to buy feed and how to find a qualified vet, the Vancouver Sun reported Friday.

While we sympathize with the interests of local people who want to keep these hens for the sustainability interests, we have concern that not everyone who is interested in keeping these chickens has the necessary knowledge or expertise to raise them humanely, said Geoff Urton, BCSPCA animal welfare coordinator.

Urton said he is also concerned that coyotes and raccoons would see an influx of urban chickens as a new food source.

Ray Nickel, president of the British Columbia Poultry Association, said Thursday's unanimous vote to legalize urban chicken keeping was ridiculous and raises a number of food safety concerns.

What if AI (avian influenza) started to happen with some of the flocks? he said.

Urton said he's worried urban chickens could be easy targets for coyotes or raccoons and attract rats. What's more, he's not convinced that Vancouverites will be able to find a vet able to care for their birds or even know where to buy the right kind of feed.