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Racing Pigeons Are Not Customary Household Pets

The Appellate Division ruled that a zoning board correctly interpreted the zoning code when it held that keeping 40 racing pigeons was not what was intended in a zoning code that permits “customary household pets” as accessory to a residence. In Matter of LaRusso v. Neuringer the court found:

“the petitioner’s proposed use of a coop in his backyard to keep and raise 40 or more racing pigeons, or ‘racing homers,’ did not qualify as keeping ‘a reasonable number of customary household pets’ within the meaning of section 342-21(B)(7) of the Code. In reaching this determination, the ZBA considered record evidence that these pigeons would be specially bred, trained, and handled to compete in races, at least some of which may result in cash prizes. ”

In analyzing the criteria applicable to interpreting the zoning code the Court noted that generally
“zoning ordinances are in derogation of the common law and must be strictly construed against the municipality…. ‘However, this rule is subject to the limitation that where, as here, it would be difficult or impractical for a legislative body to promulgate an ordinance which is both definitive and all-encompassing, a reasonable amount of discretion in the interpretation of the ordinance may be delegated to an administrative body or official’…” The interpretation of the zoning board of appeals or the official governs unless such interpretation is unreasonable or irrational…”

Our partner Kathy Zalantis argued this case on behalf of the ZBA.

-Steven Silverberg