Parrot rescue is a little known aspect of animal rescue. Most people are familiar with dog or cat rescues, but very few realize that parrots need rescue on a much larger scale.
Large parrots can live between 50 and 100 years or more, meaning they often outlive their owners and are placed in multiple homes throughout their lives. Because parrots are exotic animals and require very complicated and comprehensive care, Avian advocates are very passionate…and sometimes a little overbearing.
Unlike cats and dogs, who have been domesticated for thousands of years, parrots are still wild animals. Domestic breeding in the United States only recently exploded onto the scene, particularly after the 1992 ban on importing exotic birds. There are no accurate estimates as to the number of companion parrots in the country, nor are there statistics about breeders or rescues. This is because there is zero regulation. Anyone with a pair of parrots can breed and anyone who is so inclined can rescue. Combined with the enormous value of these birds, ranging anywhere from $20 to $10,000 or more, this has caused massive mistrust in the community.
Yet another cause of contention is the fact that there is no single source authority in the Avian community. Science is still catching up and new information is constantly being filtered into the Avian world. When that new information gets compared to the practices of people who have been caring for parrots for years, what is left is a lot of misinformation and confusion. The Internet has also become a wonderful and a terrible source of information about parrots. Some fail to recognize that publication on the Internet does not make the information sound or accurate.
For example, one recent claim is that several parrots died when their owner cooked salmon on cedar planks in the oven. The owner’s conclusion was that the cedar caused the deaths, but no necropsy (the autopsy of an animal) was ever completed. In essence, there is no proof that the cedar planks were the cause of death – unrelated fumes from the oven could just as likely be the culprit. Some people believe that cedar is immediately and fatally toxic to parrots, but independent research indicates that there is no scientific basis for that claim. Factually speaking, cedar may be the cause of respiratory irritation and organizations like the World Parrot Trust do not include cedar on the list of woods toxic to parrots. Yet, still, there are many parrot lovers who believe cedar is deadly to parrots when the fact is that there is little to base that on.
All of this misinformation and mistrust have led to chronic infighting between smaller rescues. These are typically rescues that are operated in private homes by people who are truly passionate about helping parrots, but at some point along the road to rescue, many have adopted an attitude of superiority. Rescues are regularly attacked publicly by other rescues who do not seem to be aware of legalities like slander and libel. Facebook is a breeding ground for this type of behavior and it is rampant.
The unfortunate conclusion to these nonsensical fights is that not only do parrots suffer, but the parrot rescue community suffers. Rescues in close proximity to each other often fight and compete when they could be working together to make a bigger difference. Putting aside differences in opinion and practices could foster a larger impact on parrot neglect and abuse. Working with rescues who may be misled or using questionable techniques could help create better rescues and yet, the backbiting continues. Those who are attacked often attack back in spite of wanting to stay above the fray, but when someone’s devotion and commitment to animal rescue is challenged it is difficult to hold back hurt feelings. Self-awareness and insight would go a long way in bringing rescues together – to support and lean on each other and to share best practices and ensure the continued fight to keep parrots safe.
It’s time to promote good will and cooperation, especially within the small, home-based rescue community. It’s time for rescues to stand with their peers rather than trying to destroy them. Until there is a true feeling of community and compassion, parrots will continue to be neglected, abandoned, and abused. It’s time that rescues focused on lifting others up rather than tearing them down. Parrots everywhere are depending on it.