The city has pledged to work with racing pigeon owners to come up with a new law that would let them keep the birds in urban areas.

Staff will meet with the Canadian Racing Pigeon Association to hammer out a new bylaw amendment that meets the needs of residents and owners of the elite birds.

The city planning committee faced a resolution Monday to only allow racing pigeons in rural areas, but decided to collaborate instead.

That was a relief to Cor Ubbels, a Waterdown resident who has owned racing pigeons since 1962.

"This would be the death of the sport in the Hamilton area for sure because new members couldn't move in," he said after the decision. "We feel much better that we have another chance to talk to them."

The proposed amendment to the city's Responsible Animal Ownership Bylaw would have seen pigeons only allowed in rural or agricultural areas. A grandfather clause would have covered existing urban pigeon owners, but it would end when the property changed hands or the owner relocated.

The Canadian Racing Pigeon Association disputed that on Tuesday. Citizen concerns such as noise and droppings don't apply to racing pigeons, which are kept in carefully cleaned coops and don't defecate when they fly, president Steve Walsh said.

Bill Young, director of municipal law enforcement, said certain traits apply to all pigeons.

"They all coo," he said. "They all have droppings. If you're keeping a pigeon in your backyard, it's going to be the same noise whether it's a regular pigeon or a racing-type pigeon."

The city received seven pigeon-related complaints in 2012, and has received 37 in the last five years.

Walsh said he doubts those complaints are about racing pigeons, which only come out for training or racing, and rarely land anywhere before coming home.

The bylaw change would impact 34 pigeon owners in Hamilton, many of who have invested greatly in the sport, Walsh said.

There are two pigeon-racing associations in Hamilton - the Flamborough Racing Pigeon Club and the Hamilton Central Racing Pigeon Club. These clubs police their own members, Walsh said.

"If staff gets a complaint, call us," he said. "We will tell you in a nanosecond if that is a member of the Canadian Racing Pigeon Union."

Staff will meet with the association and come back to councillors with a recommendation.