A pensioner has been banned from taking his pet owls for a walk due to health and safety concerns.
Russell Burt, 74, has spent the last ten years regularly ‘walking’ his seven pet birds around his home town.
He takes one of them out every day, going for a walk with the owl perched on his hand.
Mr Burt, a grandfather-of-one, of Plympton, Devon, says the owls enjoy the fresh air and he often draws a crowd of onlookers.
Known locally as ‘The Owl Man’, he has a licence to display birds and also collects money which he gives to a local wildlife charity.
But he has now been banned from taking his owls outside – after his local council ruled the daily walks are a health and safety risk.
Officials say he could no longer take the owls out on the grounds that they could be ”spooked” by traffic and ”run amok” and attack someone.
They say he can still display the birds at schools and care homes but cannot walk them in public because it is not a ”controlled” environment.
Mr Burt, a retired builder, condemned the decision as ”madness” and said local people had created a petition to bring his owls back.
He said: ”I started doing this when I retired and now everyone calls me the owl man. I have crowds gathering round me to see the birds.
”But the council think it’s a health and safety issue apparently and I’ve been told I can’t take them out anymore.
”It’s madness because the birds absolutely love it and they certainly don’t harm anyone. Dogs are far more dangerous.
”It’s a ridiculous decision. The council obviously knows nothing at all about birds because they love being outside and meeting people.”
Mr Burt, a father-of-three who is married to Joy, 63, has seven owls in an aviary at his home – Ben, a Bengal eagle owl, Spot, an African spotted eagle owl and Mika , a tawny owl which he rescued after a road accident.
He also has an African white faced scoptail called Scoppy and three other barn owls called Misty, Chas and Scruff.
He takes one of them out for a stroll every day but the trips have now been stopped after council officials approached him in the street.
Several police officers, council officials and a dog warden said the birds shouldn’t be outside because of the light and noise.
Mr Burt said they only took action because a member of the public complained that the owls should be asleep during the day – which he says is not true.
He added: ”They told me that it was a danger to the public on a public highway and dangerous to the cars and asked if I was insured, which I am.
”I’ve just got to take it, I suppose. I feel upset and angry. The owls love going out and about. I can’t see how it’s causing a danger to the public on the highways.”
A spokeswoman for Plymouth City Council said Mr Burt was banned from taking the owls out in the streets because of health and safety issues.
She said: ”We spoke to Mr Burt about travelling along busy roads with his pets as, in the wild, owls live a nocturnal lifestyle and we are concerned about welfare issues around exposing it to loud and hectic environments.
”There are also safety issues for the public around a large spooked bird of prey running amok on a highway.
”We are more than happy for him to continue showing the animal in controlled environments such as schools and care homes, but to protect him, his pet and the public we have asked that he finds alternative forms of transportation.”