WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — When people think of pigeons, many call them the rats of the sky.
But one West Des Moines man sees them as prized possessions, especially since he’s been breeding them since the early 1950’s.
Everyday Ray Perez takes care of his pigeons.
“I give them nice feed and water give them grit, in a given bath water and taking bath every day,” Perez said.
Perez said these birds are the result of genetic breeding
“It’s taken him 60 years to develop certain genetic strains, to make sure these pigeons look a certain way it doesn’t happen overnight,” Perez’s son Aaron Perez said.
His son Aaron Perez has fond memories of traveling to different pigeon shows with his father.
“We’ve been doing this since what were five six years old. We go around the country he goes to the Iowa State Fair every year. The demand pigeons show that used to be below appeal veteran’s auditorium,” Aaron said.
But now… because of a complaint from a neighbor… the city of West Des Moines said he needs to get rid of them.
The city’s legal department said, “In October 2018, the city became aware of the presence of approximately 75-80 show pigeons on Mr. Perez’s property. Mr. Perez lives in a residential district in West Des Moines, and under the city code, pigeons are not allowed. We’ve been working with him over the last two years to bring his property into compliance, and we’re making progress. Over the past couple weeks, animal control and the police department have been in contact with him and his son regarding the progress he’s making to remove the pigeons. City staff understands Mr. Perez has a strong connection to his animals and we are working with him to come to a resolution on this matter.”
Aaron Perez said his father now only has about 30 birds but is still being pressured to get rid of more.
“They said you can only keep four birds and I said sir that’s like having 20 kids… you’ve got to pick out the four kids you’re going to want, same difference you know what I mean?” Ray Perez said.
Because Ray suffers from major depression, his son worries what would happen if they took away his precious pigeons.
“If they took these birds, it would break the man. It’s just tough because I didn’t want to come home to find my father on the ground … I just was like I was torn apart because so many people love this man when he’s done and he’s, and he was just not, he’s just trying to do something he loves,” Aaron Perez said.
Because some of the birds are still babies and can’t be away from their mother, the city of West Des Moines is giving Perez a month to figure out how to remove the pigeons. In the meantime, Perez is attempting to license the pigeons as therapy animals in order to keep them in his care.