A Toronto resident recorded a video of a man snatching pigeons in the city’s east end and when she tried to report it to officials, she said no one wanted to investigate.
On Sunday morning, Bruna Doberstein was on her way home when she witnessed a man and a child capturing the birds with a net and placing them inside a crowded cage in a parking lot at Lawrence Avenue East and Markham Road. That’s when she decided to take out her phone and start recording.
“I expected he would stop doing it after he saw that I was recording. But he didn’t. He seemed pretty comfortable doing it,” Doberstein told CityNews.
In the video, you can hear Doberstein asking the man why he was trapping the pigeons and that he “can’t do this,” in which he responds “Yes I can. I take them to my farm and I raise them.”
Doberstein said she didn’t buy it.
“He wasn’t being gentle. He was holding the birds by their wings. A person who would raise the birds would be at least careful and keep them safe” she said. “I don’t know the story but I know it’s not good.”
At that moment, Doberstein decided to call the police. She said that while the officer was courteous, she was told that it wasn’t their jurisdiction and they wouldn’t be sending an officer.
Instead they told her to call 311. But she said from past experience, Doberstein didn’t think they would be of any help in this matter.
This wasn’t the first time she witnessed the man capturing a cage full of birds and it also wasn’t the first time she tried reporting on what she witnessed.
“It was the second time I saw this guy. I recognized the truck from almost a year ago in August in the same parking lot.”
She told CityNews that last year she contacted a variety of different municipal and provincial departments with no luck, “I called PAWS (Provincial Animal Welfares services) and The Ministry of Nature and Forestry too and I never heard back.”
This kind of response isn’t unusual, according to Camille Labchuck, animal rights lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice.
“In my experience this is not uncommon when it comes to animal issues and law enforcement agencies,” said Labchuck. “Because a lot of people have authority also means that nobody does, leading to nobody wanting to pick it up and run with it.”
While Labchuck and her team are disappointed that Toronto Animal Services and police didn’t do more, they ultimately had more success with reporting the incident to Provincial Animal Welfare Services and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
“PAWS is the agency that took over enforcement from the OSPCA two years back. They are tasked with investigating any animal cruelty problems.” Labchuck explained. Something many people may not be aware of.
Since the OSPCA announced in 2019 it will no longer enforce animal cruelty laws, there has been no clear guidance of who one should contact to report, investigate and enforce animal cruelty laws.
“You got a man roughly handling birds by the wings which is not permitted,” Labchuck said. “To say nothing of the fact that he shouldn’t be interacting with pigeons anyways. They are protected species under the federal Migratory Bird Convention Act”.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are in charge of enforcing the wildlife act. Labchuck said there could be a clear violation here as residents can’t interact with native wildlife without a permit.
However, while both departments took down information, neither would accept the video at this stage.
“They both advised that providing the video would be a next step if an enforcement officer requires it. Kind of bizarre as it’s relevant evidence at the outset,” Labchuck said.
In 2015, the illegal trapping of pigeons became a widespread issue in the city of New York after hundreds were believed to be stolen for live pigeon shoots in neighbouring states.