From her house next door, Cristina Enrietti-Zoppo watches as her tenant throws scoop after scoop of bird seed from an upstairs window into the front yard below.
Dozens of pigeons peck away — until fat rats move in to clean up the rest.
In the last two weeks alone, Enrietti-Zoppo estimates her tenant has bought and scattered more than 100 kilograms of seed.
It’s a “horrifying” daily ritual that’s been going on for more than a year, she said.
Now, the rats are nesting along the front of the Kensington Market row house and she’s worried about the diseases they carry and can transmit to humans, like bubonic plague. Pigeon feces coat the front walkway, window sills and roofs. The stench permeates her own home, as have fleas.
“These are not just esthetic concerns, these are health concerns,” she said. “The whole neighbourhood is stinking mad about it.”
City looks to expand ban
As Toronto’s bylaw stands right now, there’s virtually nothing Enrietti-Zoppo can do to stop her tenant from dumping piles of seeds on the property. The city says it prohibits the feeding of wildlife, but only in parks. It also requires tenants to keep their balconies free of droppings, but not of bird seed.
Last week, council passed a motion for the city to start developing a ban that extends to all public and private spaces in Toronto. For Enrietti-Zoppo, it can’t come soon enough.
“I’m at my wits end. I don’t know what to do anymore,” she said. “I just have no other resources.”
A bylaw officer did issue a warning to her tenant when he was feeding pigeons at a nearby parkette in December 2019, she said. But when the tenant did the same outside the rental house, she, as the property owner, was the one served a violation notice from the city on June 2 for “littering and dumping of refuse” consisting of “food grains.”
She said she’s repeatedly asked her tenant to refrain, with no success. She’s collected signed affidavits from other neighbours in support of ceasing the pigeon feeding and is attempting to evict him through the Landlord and Tenant Board, a two-year process triggered by myriad issues.
‘People are really fed up’
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam proposed the feeding ban after receiving calls from residents about parks, sidewalks, squares and laneways being inundated with flocks of pigeons. She also noticed a proliferation of nets and needle strips on buildings and balconies — a stop-gap measure to deter the birds when residents continue to feed them.
“With respect to pigeons, they grow and repopulate very, very quickly,” said Wong-Tam, who noted she’s read up on the birds.
“They’re also incredibly smart once you start teaching them that they don’t need to feed and hunt for themselves. They’ll just stick around.”
City staff will report back to the Economic and Community Development Committee on March 2022 about the feasibility of expanding the bylaw, as well as what’s needed to bolster enforcement and target those doing the feeding, rather than property owners like Enrietti-Zoppo.
“The intention here is not to penalize those who have nothing to do with the pigeons eating,” Wong-Tam said. “Landlords should have a set of rules that they can point to and say this is what’s prohibited by law.”
Wong-Tam said the bylaw expansion would be accompanied by a public education campaign about the negative consequences of feeding pigeons and how to clean up after them safely.
“People are really fed up with the large amounts of pigeons,” she said.
“I’ve very confident that we’re on the right track and this absolutely needs to be done.”