I write this post reluctantly. I want to be careful not to cast doubt and suspicion onto the many great, reputable parrot organizations out there. I don’t want to scare you away from donating money or otherwise contributing to your local rescue, but I DO want you to take a look at it before you do so, and especially if you are thinking about relinquishing your bird.
In a previous post, I listed these criteria for a good rescue:
- The facility is clean and operated by knowledgeable caretakers. Birds are fed a healthy diet, enriched and rehabbed to increase the likelihood that placement will be permanent.
- They have a stringent screening process for potential new homes.
- They have an education program in place for new owners.
- They do not “sell” birds for profit (or promote the pet industry).
- They are not breeders and do not encourage breeding.
- They are not hoarders and actively look for placement unless a bird is determined to be unsuitable for rehoming.
- They do not exceed their spacial or financial limitations when accepting new birds and will close their doors when limits have been reached.
I want to go into some depth about one of these subjects: hoarding. Hoarders are collectors that I separate into two groups: 1) those that just want to claim ownership of one of everything, and 2) those who can’t seem to stop themselves from acquiring. In the parrot world, both exist.
Please bear with me while I do some armchair behavioral profiling…. The first type of hoarder (I have had the misfortune of meeting two, but know of others) collects as many species of parrots as they can just for the bragging rights…”A scarlet macaw? I have one. A major mitchell’s cockatoo? Oh, I have TWO of those.” The birds are posessions and it is doubtful that this type of hoarder interacts with or cares about any of them. This person usually has the money to see to their basic needs, however.
The second type of hoarder is the one that will usually end up with a so-called rescue. They can also be split into two categories: 1) The person who is willing to take your bird off your hands just to gain posession of yet another bird, and has no intention of placing it in a new home, and 2) the person who just wants to care for what he/she presumes is an unloved bird and uses a “rescue” as a means to acquire birds in need. This person is incapable of parting with any of the birds. They do not usually have the financial means to sustain a constantly growing population of birds and many of which may suffer from untreated illness or live in cramped quarters. The hoarding process might begin when they take in a single needy parrot out of love, but it progresses into something out of control and ultimately destructive.
Hoarders do not have the right mentality to properly care for a parrot, though I am sure that they would disagree. We all want to help a parrot in need, but a good caregiver knows not to exceed their limitations because having too many birds effects the quality of care that all their bird receive – a hoarder has no boudaries and continues to hoard. The conditions that some of these birds endure is unimaginable.
I talked with a nice woman today about some of her personal experiences and she shared with me a story about an african grey kept by a hoarder, claiming to run a rescue, some years back. This bird survived a horrible and confining existance living in a cat carrier. The carrier was so unclean that it was placed outside during the day because of the intense odor.
There was no perch inside and a life of standing in one place, on a flat surface, eventually deformed the bird’s feet. To escape the pain, the bird would lie on its side to sleep at night. As expected, the bird was completely plucked and laying in its own feces resulted in skin infections. The severity of the living conditions and subsequent disease would have certainly ended this birds life within a couple of weeks.
The good news is that the african grey she described as a naked, rotting bird, was eventually truly rescued. A local vet donated a couple of thousand dollars worth of free services to restore its health and it is in a great home now. The “rescue” was investigated by the authorities and has been shut down.
She advises that we be aware of who we are surrendering our birds to and offers this advice:
- A rescue should want you to tour their home/ facility, as they will take pride in the work they are doing. Nearly anyone can get licensed for a non-profit rescue/charity, this doesn’t prove that they can or will provide a good home. If they will not let you tour, DO NOT give them your bird!
- A rescue should be VERY knowledgeable about parrots and able to offer a wide variety of information- environment, cage size, personality, diet, behavioral issues, common health issues and treatments. If there seems to be gaps in their knowledge, or if you detect any weirdness, DO NOT give them your bird!
- A rescues first goal should be to take steps to encourage you to keep the bird, and offer assistance when possible. If they offer to just come pick your bird up and give it a loving home (or other promise), DO NOT give them your bird!
- A real rescue has limitations (financial, space, money), and sometimes they simply cannot do not say yes to every pet. Hoarders will say yes every time without asking many questions, DO NOT give them your bird!
- A real rescue does not buy birds, they save them! If someone offers to buy your bird and tells you they are a rescue, DO NOT sell them your bird!
Research before you relinquish and remember that if it feels wrong, it probably is!
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.