Pigeons trapped for weeks in Belfast building are set free
A flock of pigeons trapped in a vacant Belfast city centre building, sparking a campaign to free them, have been let out, the Belfast Telegraph understands.
The scavenging birds may not be most people's favourite wildlife, but the 'BHS four' had tugged on the heartstrings of passing shoppers, with many leaving out bird seed and water for them.
The pigeons are understood to have become trapped in the old BHS shop on Castle Place around three weeks ago.
The building has been closed and vacant since last August when BHS went into administration, and stores across the UK closed down.
Animal activist Debbie Doolittle said she was first contacted by concerned members of the public three weeks ago.
She believes there were at least four birds trapped inside.
"Members of the public had been contacting Belfast City Council, but because it is a private premises we needed to contact whoever owned the building to ask them to let the pigeons out," she said.
"I was informed there were at least four in the building and that they were completely stuck.
"The problem is there was absolutely nothing in the building. They were seen trying to use their tongues to lick condensation off the windows to get a drink.
"Then members of the public started sliding really flat lids with feed and bits of bread under the door so the birds could at least get a bit of food.
"It is a sealed building, so obviously there is no food or drink in there. I know they may not be everyone's favourite, but they are living creatures too."
However, a poster appeared on the building urging people not to leave food, warning it could attract "rats and other vermin that could cause a risk to human health".
Ms Doolittle said when a Rentokil van was spotted on Tuesday outside the building, they feared the worst, adding that she and others were devastated.
She said she had offered to go and let the birds out for them.
But a spokesman for Maps Solutions Europe - which is currently looking after the building on behalf of the administrators - said the pigeons were released before the store was cleaned and locked up again. It is not known how many had survived and were able to fly out.
"Rentokil are not just for the disposal of animals, they do cleaning as well. Because of what has happened - that there have been pigeons in there - not only did we have to get them out because of alarm issues that might present themselves, there are also all sorts of diseases that people can pick up from the faeces of pigeons and they are specialists in cleaning up after pigeons," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Not only do you have to clean it up, but you have to dispose of it appropriately in line with legislation. They are experts in that area. When they (Rentokil) went in I was informed they had managed to chase them (the pigeons) out through a roller shutter door out the back, so the pigeons got out. Then they had to clean up."
He added: "Our main issue was not the pigeons being in there, but the problem they present in terms of human health.
"That's why Rentokil was brought in.
"They can clean up and dispose of the faeces properly."