This morning, someone emailed me asking me to convince them of why they should relinquish their bird to me, later stating they have checked every other sanctuary and rescue and found them to be full. The person's goal was to find a sanctuary where her bird could live out his life with lots of attention from volunteers and other birds. This isn't the first time I have gotten an email like this, although whenever I do I find it somewhat ironic. I understand an owners concern for where their bird may end up, and people should do all the research they can before: #1, deciding to relinquish their bird in the first place and #2, before deciding on a place for them to reside. Here I offer my view on the topic:
I’m not one to “convince people to give me their birds”. Most reputable rescues are happy when people are able to keep their birds, and taking in more birds does not benefit a rescue. We don’t make a profit off of rescue. We do this for the love of the birds, and because we are needed, and the majority of people relinquishing birds have the task of talking us into taking their bird, because there is just that many.
There’s a reason why most everyone, rescues and sanctuaries alike, are full. Unwanted parrots are a huge problem worldwide. They are the third top throw-away pet right under cats and dogs. They are loud, messy, and have very long lifespans, and in the end, they are still wild animals — it takes a special person to have a well-cared for, happy bird as a pet and an even more special person to open a rescue or sanctuary. Most sanctuaries started as rescues such as my own, out of their own homes, and there still are smaller in-home sanctuaries that began as rescues. We fill at a very rapid rate, and the majority of what we receive is birds who are not adoptable into the average household due to behavior or ongoing medical issues. All those birds quickly become permanent residents (I have quite a few myself), because we just don’t trust anyone else to handle them and take as good of care as we do.
All sanctuaries are different, but the majority is run by one or two main people, the “presidents” or main owners. I know of a large sanctuary with over 500 birds — they had no anticipation of growing that large, it just happened because the need was there and they are passionate people. They have been trying to retire from the sanctuary life for several years with no success, because no one else wants to take on the responsibility of that many birds. What if they pass on? Well you can only hope that they planned for the future, but that can be close to impossible to do. Perhaps the dedicated volunteers would keep it running, but who is to say that would happen. This is the risk all of us take when running a rescue— cat, dog, bird or others… And this is also the risk a person takes when relinquishing any animal to a rescue or sanctuary. You never truly know where they end up for the long-haul.
For me, personally? Well my husband and I only just hit 30 years old, so I would sure hope nothing tragic would happen to both of us, but if it does, we have a close relationship with a few large sanctuaries. And what if that sanctuary shuts down? We can only hope that they don’t — we can’t tell the future. If only I or my husband fell ill, one or the other would care for the current birds on our own. This is why we limit our numbers to 20 birds at a time, because we know that would still be manageable — difficult, but manageable. I know this for a fact because we have made our way up to 20 birds before, and my husband had a nasty two-week long flu during that time, which he lovingly transferred to me. We both got a taste of what it would be like managing 20 birds on our own while taking care of the other person. Thankfully, we are both equally dedicated to the rescue.
Sure, larger sanctuaries have volunteers, but they also have hundreds of birds. Most large places will have ten volunteers in throughout a day taking care of 300-1,000 parrots, and the birds are left alone at night while people go home to their families. The birds do not get as much individual attention as some people think in a large sanctuary setting. The word “sanctuary” makes it sound nice, and don’t get me wrong, there are great ones out there, but only certain birds will truly be happy there. Many end up there as a last resort. Be absolutely sure that your bird will be happy in a large sanctuary-type setting, because it isn’t for all of them.
The average medium-large parrot costs $75 a month in supplies (variety of foods, toys, etc). That’s $900 a year per bird and $18,000 a year for 20 birds. This isn’t even including vet bills or the electric bills from running UV lighting or television/music for the bird’s entertainment and it isn’t including caging or any needed expansions. Most people don’t realize that they are actually expecting a lot from a rescue by wanting them to take their bird for life, and many rescues and sanctuaries charge a fee to relinquish a bird. I do not, only because I do not want to turn the people away who truly have neglected and sick birds in their hands that need help — the life or death situations. I always take it as a compliment when loving bird owners request for me to keep their bird for life, but at the same time, I’m asked that by almost everyone.
This doesn’t mean I won’t keep a relinquished bird for life. I do not adopt out birds that have severe behavior problems. If they can’t be handled, they remain here as permanent sanctuary residents. The same goes for medically fragile birds. Eventually we will become full of unadoptable birds, and just like the others, we will then just call ourselves a “sanctuary” and rarely take in more.
I am a very upfront and honest person who doesn’t sugar-coat anything. As with any bird, in the back of my mind I hope that they will end up here because I fear of where they might end up otherwise. Just like how bird owners question rescues about taking their beloved family members, I also am nervous when they end up elsewhere; not everyone realizes how many bad people are in the parrot world.
All birds here are my kids, whether permanent residents or not, and even for the ones that are adoptable, I am very, very strict and have a long application process for rehoming, along with a legal contract. If potential adopters can’t show me that they can take better care of the bird than I can (and that’s a big role to fill), then they don’t go anywhere.
As my main job unrelated to the rescue world, I am a full time writer for a collector car insurance company. Between this job and the rescue, I enjoy sharing my experiences throughout my journey with parrots. Stay tuned for periodic updates!