Should Birds Be Allowed in Pet Stores?

Q: I went to my local bird store with my sun conure, Joey, the other day to get him a cage mate. I thought this way I could let him choose his new friend. The store owners made me leave with Joey because they don’t allow outside birds around their own. I thought they were rude. Why do they have this rule?

Dena W., Norfolk, VA

A: I’m sure it did seem a little offensive to you that they sent you and Joey packing, and maybe they could’ve been a bit more considerate in offering you an explanation as to their actions. I have to say, though, that I agree entirely with their “no outside birds” policy and wish everyone followed the same rule. Since they didn’t take the opportunity to explain, allow me…

When you allow someone to bring their bird into your store, you are exposing the all of the birds to any disease the visiting bird might have. Some of the most contagious and deadly of the avian diseases are airborne, meaning that it is circulated and spread through moving air. Others are contact diseases which are spread through body fluids or feces. They can be passed along as innocently as on a mutually chewed toy or on the hands of a human.  All it takes is one sick bird.

Consider this:

What if Joey had been sick without your awareness and had passed his disease along to a potential cage mate that you decided against and left behind at the store. This bird would then go on to infect the others in the store. When they were sold, they would go on to infect the flocks in their new homes…and so on.

There is also the reality that Joey could have been made sick by a bird in that store – or a toy that he latched onto that had been recently in contact with a sick bird.  It is really not a risk worth taking when you consider the trickle down effect.

It is for these reasons that it was a strict policy in my Austin bird club that we do not bring our birds to meetings and it is why I don’t bring my birds out to places where there are other birds present, such as bird fairs.

In fact, I am reluctant to buy toys from places where I suspect other birds have been or those that may have been handled by the owners of potentially sick birds. I will usually only by toys that can be cleaned and sterilized from fairs and bird stores that allow visiting birds, and I purchase the wooden toys and shreddables online where I am certain they are new and untouched.

So, instead of being angry with the store owners that sent you away, applaud them, instead, for their good sense and safe practices where the birds are concerned. This is a store I would definitely make purchases from in the future.

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

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