Pictured: Captive Macaw – ©ingridtaylar
I was just turned on to this article through our local dove-and-pigeon rescue group, Mickacoo. Mickacoo’s dedicated and superhuman founder, Elizabeth, helped mentor me in the ways of understanding domestic birds.
Although I’ve worked with animals most of my life, I’d never been involved with domestically-bred birds: parrots, doves, racing pigeons, game birds. The plight of these animals is now a cause dear to my heart as a result of seeing, firsthand, how carelessly their lives are often handled — or, rather, mishandled. So, you can consider this a post with a clear bias.
The article mentioned above, Plenty to Squawk About (by Mira Tweti) appeared in the LA Times in 2003. It rose to the top of the heap again because San Francisco is considering a ban on pet sales within the city limits. Pet birds are included in that legislation, thanks in large part to Elizabeth who spoke at the related hearing.
This article by Tweti should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking of buying a pet bird and anyone who cares at all for the welfare of birds. Actually, every human being should read this. Those who don’t know about the troubles facing our feathered brethren might derive the most from these writings.
Tweti, a journalist and author of Of Parrots and People, published this extensively-researched exposé of the pet bird trade, which includes a few unspeakably tragic anecdotes wrought by the large-scale bird-breeding industry.
. . . not all stores are staffed with conscientious workers. ‘They starved that baby to death,’ says Kathy Buckler, referring to a caique parrot she saw at her local Petco store in Round Rock, Texas. Buckler, a bird owner, discovered the young parrot in extreme distress: ‘It was screaming from hunger for days, but the breeder told them it was on two feedings a day, and that’s all the food it was getting.’ The bird was finally found dead by police in the store’s freezer.
Many complaints about Petco from current and former employees across the country have recounted the same alarming practice: being ordered to put sick animals in the store freezer to kill them rather than have them humanely euthanized, as is the law. ‘You can check any store at any time and get an accurate count of what has died by just looking in the freezer,’ says a former district manager for the chain.
Beyond the atrocities inherent in mass-breeding operations, bird rescues are dealing with a constant over-abundance of abandoned and abused birds. As Tweti writes in her article, “once the birds are brought home, owners quickly discover that parrots — though smart and affectionate — make terrible pets. Consequently, they are being set loose at alarming rates.” For every bird properly cared for by his or her human companion, there are many others kept in wretched conditions in tiny cages, closets, garages with no companionship, no interaction, and improper physical care. The misconceptions about owning birds abound. And the ignorance about a bird’s physical, psychological and emotional needs is rampant.
Bay Area rescue Mickaboo fosters and adopts out their rescued parrots, canaries, finches and other species. As with many rescue groups, Mickaboo does its best to cope with the multitude of homeless domestic birds, but they are consistently overloaded.
Through Mickaboo and Mickacoo I became aware of the bird “problem,” and now advocate for the same ends as many rescues across the country: “Don’t breed, don’t buy. Adopt.” That’s the Mickaboo motto, in fact, and one I can put myself behind with a 100 percent conviction, just as I have with other pet adoption and breeding issues. Read the article and make that decision for yourself. I do hope more people come to the conclusion that what’s happening in the realm of domestic birds and breeding is simply unacceptable.
Related post: Admiring … But Not Feeding San Francisco’s Wild Parrots