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Man faces jail for feeding a bird

August 4, 2011

A Bloomington man is facing possible jail time, accused of breaking a city ordinance that prohibits residents from feeding wild animals.
In Bloomington, it is legal to use bird feeders — as long as they are 5 feet off the ground. Neighbors and the charges allege that Craig Brown was throwing feed onto the ground, which is illegal.For years, Brown said he tried to make his backyard a haven for birds.

Now, birds rarely visit Brown’s backyard. Months ago, Brown removed all his bird feeders after he said those feeders landed him in trouble with the law.
“I am nervous,” said Brown. “They have the right to send me to jail.”

A video taken by a neighbor in December showed the Bloomington City Attorney just how popular Brown’s yard was for animals. In the video, dozens of birds are seen eating from the ground.Neighbors said the food didn’t just bring birds, it also brought rodents, which then chewed on their property.

“You have an impact on your neighbors. Your backyard and what you do in it can damage the livability of neighbors’ house,” said Sandra Johnson, the Bloomington City Attorney.

Brown claimed his bird feeding fell in line with the city ordinance.
“I was still putting the feed in feeders. I was doing it legally, but I was getting these ducks in here. What do I do?” said Brown.

According to the criminal complaint, however, Brown admitted to deliberately throwing food on the ground. He claimed the seeds on the ground came from the hanging feeders.
“In this case, I believe the resident was initially warned, but he continued to feed on the ground,” said Johnson.

As Brown prepares to fight for a hobby he can no longer enjoy, he also realizes a not guilty verdict is not necessarily a win.
“I promise they’ll never see a bird feeder in my yard. It’s ruined it for me. I can’t ever do it again,” said Brown.

Brown did have the option of avoiding jail time by pleading guilty, but it is a misdemeanor charge that would have stayed on his record, which was his concern.
Brown’s maximum punishment could be 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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