Thursday, December 29, 2005
C.A. Rules for Peacocks in Palos Verdes Estates
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The City of Palos Verdes Estates is entitled to ban the trapping of peafowl, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
In a Dec. 2 opinion, certified yesterday for publication, Div. Eight held that deed restrictions prohibiting the keeping of “cattle, hogs, or other animals” in the parklands and canyons of the city do not apply to peafowl because they are feral, rather than domesticated, animals.
The court overturned an injunction barring the city’s peafowl management program, which permits a minimum flock of 21 birds in each of two designated parkland areas.
Peafowl—the terminology includes both peacocks, the male of the species, and peahens, who are female, although both are referred to as peacocks in common usage—are not native to the Americas but were brought to Palos Verdes Estates by a former mayor many years ago, Justice Paul Boland explained. The mayor kept the peafowl in a pen behind his home, but his family released the peafowl into the wild in 1965 following his death.
“Since that time, the proliferation of free-roaming, feral peafowl has precipitated serious differences of opinion among property owners in the City,” Boland explained. “Some residents view the peafowl as a nuisance without parallel, while others view them as a desirable part of the City’s distinctive rural heritage.”
Arrayed against the fowl in the litigation were residents who sued for inverse condemnation, public and private nuisance, trespass, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and declaratory and injunctive relief. The creatures were picked by the city and its amicus, Friends of the Peacocks.
Superior Court Commissioner Bruce Mitchell sustained the city’s demurrers as to all claims except those for declaratory and injunctive relief. Those causes of action were heard by Superior Court Judge Jane Johnson, who sided with the plaintiffs on the question of the deed restrictions.
But Boland, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the city’s decision to manage the population, rather than allow it to be decimated, was entitled to deference. The deed restrictions, he added, “must be understood in their ordinary and popular sense” to prohibit the raising of animals on the affected properties.
“The restriction cannot be understood to mean that the City may not count, trap and remove feral peafowl and otherwise act in accordance with its peafowl management program,” the justice said.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company