Duck Tales: Sarnia man baffled by daffy municipal bylaw

Nathan Colquhoun believes a few birds make his neighbourhood friendlier. When Sarnia took his ducks he acquired a few bantam chickens, which are legal under the bylaw. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Nathan Colquhoun isn’t sure whether he should be outraged or not.

“I’d say I’m more mystified,” says the Sarnia man who, until recently, had a pen with six pet ducks in his yard.

“The neighbours just loved the ducks,” said the 30-year-old Colquhoun. “The kids came over to feed them.  One girl liked to sketch them. It was amazing how people came together to see the ducks.”

Colquhoun’s ducks arrived in May. They came by post from California and were only a day old on delivery.

Each was a different breed: Black Swedish, Blue Swedish, Indian Runner Duck, White Pekin, Rowen and Welsh Harlequin.

When they proved too smelly to stay in the house Colquhoun moved them outdoors using an old chicken coop, heat lamp and a bathtub so they could swim.

In August, the ducks began escaping into the neighbours’ yards but no one complained.

“At dusk, one of us or one of our neighbours would escort them back to their pen where there was shelter and food and water for them,” he said.

But on Oct. 16, the city’s animal control department picked up the ducks.

 

Sarnia’s bylaw does not allow the keeping of ducks or other fowl, with the exceptions of bantam chickens and birds at the Children’s Animal Farm.

City spokesperson Jane Cooper said city hall did not receive any complaints about Colquhoun’s ducks. They were picked up “because they were wandering the streets and that’s unacceptable,” she said.

Colquhoun said he can’t understand why the municipality disallows ducks.

“I love the idea of people in the city learning where their food comes from,” he said. “It’s funny to me that we live in cities where these things are frowned upon.”

The day the ducks disappeared Colquhoun contacted the animal control and the Sarnia and District Humane Society.

He learned they were at the animal shelter, impounded for being illegal and loose ducks.

“We had no call back the next day and waited the weekend.”

On Monday Oct. 20, animal control explained to Colquhoun that possessing ducks is against the law.

“They said, give them up or find a home for them outside the city.”

It was explained to Colquhoun he had four days to find an alternate home for his ducks or they would go up for adoption, said Donna Pyette, manager at the Humane Society.

“He never came in to tell us he had another home for them.”

On Oct. 22, the shelter gave the ducks to the owner of a hobby farm outside the city.

Colquhoun insists he was never told he had a four-day deadline. And he said he went to the shelter on Oct. 21 to claim his ducks and take them to a friend’s farm where three little girls were excited to welcome them.

“But they wouldn’t give them to us,” he said.

Pyette said the shelter met its obligation to hold the ducks four days.

“Then they were released for adoption,” she said. “Although I feel for him (Colquhoun) I have no legal right to go back and ask for the ducks back.

“The new owner knows the story and has made no effort to give them up. She’s sent us pictures saying they love them,” said Pyette.

She said Colquhoun did not follow up sufficiently.  “There was a communication breakdown on his end,” she said.

Colquhoun sees it differently.

“I don’t think animal control and the humane society communicate well,” he said. “We contacted them by phone, by showing up and by Facebook. We were told the city was going through staffing changes for animal control and things were chaotic.”

“I’m really hoping the person who has them sees this and wants to give our ducks back.”

Speaking for the city, Cooper said, “We understand that everyone’s pet is very important to them. But having said that, these ducks have gone to a good home.”

Colquhoun remains baffled about the bylaw and what happened to his ducks.

“I know they are just ducks,” he said.  “But people were happy about having them in the neighbourhood.

“Everyone thought it was awesome.”