A brief recap: In March of this year, Justin Lawther uploaded videos of his eclectus parrot on the windshield wipers of his vehicle while traveling at alarming rates of speed. To any eye, it was a clear-cut case of abuse. In April, I wrote this first post asking for support in getting a petition signed (drawn up by the newly formed Committee To Save Angus) that demanded the Australian authorities take custody of Angus. It was followed by this post explaining why the petition was so important. Finally, this post, which was written once contact had been made with Justin and it was discovered that his intentions were not abusive, just tragically unsound.
As you have probably deduced from the photo above, the court’s decision was to conditionally return Angus to Justin. Two members of the Committee To Save Angus were present, one testified for the defense, but spoke honestly about the stupidity of his act. She added:
I was able to confirm that he’d been trying to educate himself by asking others for help and that he did have an excellent vet. The vet had provided a written reference and an offer to help Justin by maintaining contact with him/regular check ins. The magistrate asked if I was prepared to maintain contact as well, I said yes. He asked if I’d report any suspected cruelty to the RSPCA and I said ‘in a heartbeat'.
Justin was offered a deal. In order to regain custody of his bird, he was required to plead guilty to animal cruelty, which he did not want to do because there was no malicious intent in his actions. Verbiage was changed to “conduct likely to cause suffering” and veered away from harsh language that would legally preclude him getting his bird back.
The total cost to Justin is a $250 AUD ($264.62 USD) reimbursement fee to the RSPCA for the care and upkeep of Angus while he was in their facility, a required $200 AUD ($211.70 USD) donation to Wildlife Victoria (a wildlife rescue), many death threats and the complete upheaval of his life over the past several months. Compared to what he was facing in fines and possible jail time, he got a bargain.
Justin was, of course, elated to have his bird back, but I presume that everyone was more interested in seeing how Angus was feeling. Angus loves Justin, and there is a reason for that: there is trust, there is bonding, there is happiness. A bird will only tell it like it is. Angus loves Justin. That is the most important part of this story.
I know many of you are disappointed, perhaps angry, with the outcome of the trial. I know that some of you are concerned that with the terrible judgment he has shown in the past, Angus might not be safe in his care. I fully understand those fears.
It has been suggested that Justin is not mentally stable. There is probably some truth to that. I don’t, however, feel that it has any bearing on his ability to provide Angus with a good home. Justin is a troubled man. He has had a hard life. I think that Angus gives Justin stability and purpose. Their reunion was photographed and video taped. Justin was a calm and rational man in the footage. A committee member noted that he is an altogether different person with his bird, than he was without it. Animals have the unique ability to bring a sense of tranquility to humans.
Please watch this video about war veterans with PTSD healing themselves by working with abused parrots, and read this article about the use of animals in human therapy. Hopefully, these will help you to feel better about the decision of the court to return Angus to Justin.
However you wind up feeling after reading this, I ask you to let Justin and Angus move forward without interference or threat. Justin is committed to providing Angus with everything he needs, and I believe he will do it.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.