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Court rules that Vancouver woman's birds are pets, not poultry

This photo shows a guinea fowl hen. (Image credit: Shutterstock) This photo shows a guinea fowl hen. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

A Vancouver woman has won her fight with the city and been allowed to keep two guinea fowl hens on her property for the "pure joy of companionship" they provide her, a judge has ruled.

Arielle Reid was disputing a charge laid by the city, alleging that she violated a municipal by-law by "harbouring a prohibited bird," according to a provincial court decision posted online Tuesday.

The judge noted that the fact that the birds were being kept on Reid's property was not in dispute, rather, the core issue was the interpretation of the bylaw.

While the city allows exotic birds to be kept as pets as long as a person does not have more than 12, it also prohibits the keeping of most types of poultry or fowl. However, guinea fowl are not explicitly mentioned on the list of what is allowed or the list of what is prohibited.

"Is harbouring guinea fowl hens as a pet within the municipal boundaries of the City of Vancouver prohibited in the animal management and control scheme of the city?" Justice Zahid Makhdoom wrote, summarizing the question he sought to answer.

"As a society that recognizes people’s desire to seek companionship of animals having a mix of deleterious and beneficial outcomes, the bylaw sets out a thoughtful structure. It is a regulatory scheme that balances human need for animal companionship and public safety," he continued.


The dispute dated back to March of 2022 when the city received a noise complaint and dispatched an animal control officer to investigate.

"His initial findings were that a couple of rather chatty guinea fowls lived inside a coop in the back yard of the disputant’s home," Makhdoom wrote in his reasons, noting that Reid had registered her ownership of two hens with the city.

Roughly two weeks after the initial complaint 'the officer returned to find both birds still in their usual coop, chatting," the decision says.

Reid was issued a warning notice, telling her she had 14 days to remove the birds from her property or would risk being fined for or charged with a bylaw violation.

In September of 2022, six months after the initial noise complaint, Reid was charged under the Animal Control Act. The decision in the case notes that she neither removed the birds nor paid the $250 fine prior to being charged.

However, the judge accepted Reid's argument for why she did not remove the birds within the timeframe provided by the city, and noted that they were eventually removed from the property.

"She chose to focus on rehoming her beloved birds lest these are apprehended and removed by the city pound. As that would be highly stressful for the birds as well for the personnel at the pound who may lack sufficient expertise on caring for these exotic creatures," the decision says.

"Currently, the birds reside outside the city limits with caring and knowledgeable care providers," the September 2023 decision says.


In weighing the question of whether the guinea fowl hens were pets or poultry, the judge considered the reasons why Reid had the birds, the care she took of them and that her decision to keep them did not adversely impact anyone else.

"The disputant kept them as beloved companions, for the pure pleasure of their proximity. Perhaps the same reasons many keep canines or felines, budgies or parrots," he wrote.

"Her conduct in stewardship and care of these birds is exemplary. She has provided for these birds an exceptional sanctuary. (The evidence) shows an excellent coop, clean, airy and bright with fresh water and food, demonstrating the disputant’s diligent efforts in creating a comfortable habitat for these beautiful birds."

Reid also told the court that she has Jamaican ancestry and that she served for the Peace Corps in Mozambique. In both of those countries, the keeping of guinea fowl as pets is common. This, the judge found, demonstrated both her familiarity with the animals and the fact that ideas around which animals are appropriate pets are culturally specific.

Dogs and cats, Makhdoom noted, are kept as pets in "huge numbers" in Vancouver even if they cause noise, nuisance and other issues. In contrast, the judge said there was "no evidence" the birds had "any deleterious effects on our civic life."

In addition, the judge noted that guinea fowl hens would not be a "viable choice" for someone looking to raise birds to produce food due to the fact that they are "poor layers" and that their meat is "gamey and tough." Another reason the court found the birds did not constitute poultry is that they are not included on a list published by B.C.'s Ministry of Agriculture detailing the types of birds that are included in that category.

"The disputant did not keep these birds as poultry either for eggs or meat but kept them for pure joy of companionship," he wrote.

"She is entitled to keep these birds so long she complies with other provisions of the bylaw."


A previous version of this article said that the woman involved in the dispute was born and raised in Jamaica. She was born in Canada but raised in Jamaica. Top Stories

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