Guest Post by Erin Mavromatis
It started with a simple Facebook notification. A friend posted a video from the local news channel here in Las Vegas on my Facebook page about a resident that was feeding pigeons in her backyard, and the neighbors were upset. She captioned the video saying, “Erin, is this you?”, laughing because she knows I love pigeons. It was an innocent joke, but to me it went way further than that.
I watched the video a number of times, and each time it equally broke my heart and incensed me more and more. The story focused on incorrect facts such as pigeons have diseases and are “dirty”. All I could think about was, “how many people just developed an incorrect connotation about pigeons, just from watching this news story?” I knew I had to do something.
I wrote a letter to the news station telling them how disappointed I was about their story, and telling them the real facts about how wonderful pigeons are. In the video they had interviewed one of the Clark County Commissioners who said pigeons were “rats with wings”, and that they were dirty because “they don’t even eat out of bird feeders, they eat on the ground”. So I wrote a letter to her as well. When looking up her contact information, I also found that they were 6 other Clark County commissioners, so they each got a letter too.
The next morning, the assistant to one of the commissioners sent me a reply email inviting me to speak the following week at a public hearing regarding the pigeons. After of course agreeing, I did some research and found that the issue being brought up at the public hearing was an ordinance to make the feeding of feral pigeons in Las Vegas illegal. In other words, feeding a pigeon could soon be considered a misdemeanor, in the same class as vandalism, trespassing, and reckless driving. It was then that I knew just how big this really was.
A week later I got dressed up in my best Palomacy clothes and headed to the courthouse. I had a speech planned and was rather confident that I was going to be able to make all 7 commissioners realize what wonderful and amazing creatures pigeons are. Once I got there however, I realized that I had a much bigger fight ahead of me.
The courthouse was rather intimidating, and they told me I had less than 3 minutes to speak. My speech was 5 minutes so I had to scramble to make sure I got the most important points across. There were also five other Las Vegas residents ready to speak as well, which also threw me off. A piece of me hoped with all my heart that they were there to stand up for the pigeons as well, but deep down I knew what was about to happen.
I wish I had great news to share, but the truth is that it was brutal. Four people got up to speak before me and told the commissioners how horrible they thought pigeons were and how they didn’t want to see their neighbors feeding them. Almost everything that came out of their mouths was false, telling the commissioners how dirty and diseased pigeons are. How they feared for their health. How they couldn’t have company over because the pigeons “swarmed” the walkway to the front door. It was horrible to listen to.
Finally, it was my turn to speak. I smiled and calmly told the commissioners how I have worked with pigeons my whole life. How I have 3 amazing pigeons as pets and how I rehab and release the feral pigeons. How they are not “diseased” at all, and how you are much more likely to catch something from a dog, cat, or your dinner than from a pigeon. How they were war heroes years ago and won metals of honor. How it was the pest control companies that used pigeons as a scapegoat to instill fear in the general public and make millions. How they are the most amazing, clean, loyal, intelligent animals you will find. I wanted so badly to see a spark in even one of the commissioners eyes that said I was getting through to them, but sadly I could tell that their minds were made up long before I even started to speak.
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