For the past 4 months and for who knows how many more, myself, among many other dedicated volunteers, have devoted numerous hours caring for 130+ birds confiscated from a facility claiming to be a “Rescue”. A few of us have been there for these birds since the day of the raid and I can tell you, this was no rescue. What came into the triage unit on May 10th 2012 would bring any good bird lover to tears. You could smell their pain as the odor of ammonia permeated from their feathers. Years of breathing stale urine tainted air affected their lungs. Wheezing, gurgling, blocked sinus cavities were common. Some birds had tumors, lesions, overgrown nails, and scissor beak. There were birds emaciated while others were bloated from various stages of organ diseases. I will never forget the one lone parakeet with what looked like a tumor, half the size of his little body, protruding from his lower half. So large and heavy that he would barely move for if he did, it would roughly drag across anything he encountered and so often, he sat motionless, staring into his mirror. I can’t imagine the pain this little guy endured and who knows for how long. No, this was not a safe haven for exotic birds. This was nothing more than a house of painful death. I sometimes have a hard time comparing in my mind if the abusive situations that this place claimed some of these birds came from was worse than what they endured while in the care of Wings Over the Rainbow.
The triage and shelter set-up worked like a well-oiled machine with 3 care units, Isolation, Quarantine and General Population. The sickest birds were assessed first and the non-critical next. Sadly on this day, many of the birds fell into the critical status and so, many were placed in ISO or Quarantine. I can’t tell you the number of times you could hear throughout the shelter “I’m so sorry” or the tears shed by so many people that day but on this day, so began a new life for these creatures.
Once the birds were assessed they were placed into clean cages and provided food and water untainted with the rodent feces and urine that plagued their food for so long given to them by their “Savior” at the “Rescue”. Yes, Deb Shell fails to tell her followers that the food she fed the “Rescue” birds and sold to the public to everyday bird owners tested positive for rodent urine and feces. If you were one of the few WOTR supporters who showed up in court, you would know this and for those few, you have been asked to please keep that to yourself. What a disservice you do to these birds you claim to care so much for.
The following day was the first of our still continuing ritual of twice a day cage cleaning, the feeding of a healthy diet including fresh fruits and vegetables also twice a day and placement and replacement of so many brightly textured toys and perches. The Vet Staff providing daily care for all the birds which again continues to this day. Then there is the snuggles, cuddles, kisses, baths, wing and head scratches, and songs and dances that so many of us do with our own birds bestowed upon these creatures and the shelter was alight with the sound of truly rescued birds.
So many of them I have grown fond of and I have yet to see many truly “aggressive” birds from all of this. I have seen birds that once cowered in the back of their cage come forth and greet the volunteers with vigor. I have seen birds with who barely had the strength to hold their head up, now can clamber up the side of their cage. I have seen much new feather growth on so many you wouldn’t believe they were the same birds. I have seen bird and human antics of all silly kinds and I have seen true compassion for these birds from the many people who care for them.
WOTR has accepted no fault in anything of this. They claim the birds were fed proper diets, provided proper vet care and loved. Living among mice and roaches…being fed tainted food… allowed to endure painful tumors and lesions, struggling to breathe on a daily basis, swamped with various infections, walking and perching a painful task…that isn’t being loved. That is failure of the biggest kind.
Out of something bad they say there is always good. I must agree. I have seen a Humane Agent perform her job duties far as expected from someone in that position of authority and never falter. I have seen again the utmost dedication and devotion for animals from an admired Veterinarian and Vet Technician. I’ve seen acquaintances grow into tight friendships and new friendships formed. I’ve seen so much good from the Avian Community arise from this tragedy. Groups like Parrot Posse, Parrot Troopers, Parrot Toy Angels and many other members of the Avian Community banding together to ensure these birds received everything necessary to sustain a happy and healthy life.
There are the WOTR supporters who shout “Where were you?” and to them I say I have seen first-hand the conditions! I have helped! I have raised money for them! I have offered to provide volunteers to come clean cages! And I still have some of the emails to prove it! But as with an addict, there comes a time when you have to say enough and let someone hit rock bottom. I get you want to believe in Deb but I’ll ask you to do this before aligning yourself once again. Ask her for the HS citations she received months before the raid, asking her to make certain changes. If those did not exist, the warrant wouldn’t have been granted and the warrant wouldn’t have been upheld. Ask her why she really pled guilty? Ask her what exactly her diversion agreement is. Ask her for the copies of intake, vet and adoption records for the birds for the last few years. Ask her for copies of the donations sent in for Casey and the vet records and you compare them. Ask her if their lawyers were threatening to sue us, the volunteers who devote time every week to insuring these birds are cared for, for monetary compensation. You tell me what kind of sense that makes. Ask her what she spent $130k in 2010 on and why she didn’t use the money to move to a different location if the landlord refused to maintain the building. Better yet, ask to see the copy of her lease agreement. The one that mentions the landlord is not responsible for any rodent or bug problems. Ask to see the necropsy results and I mean the actual documents, not some typed post on FB. As someone who vows allegiance to Deb, you have the right to see these things and have these questions answered truthfully. If she or any other mouthpiece for WOTR refuses to provide this information but instead mouth it to you, you really need to take a good look at that and wonder why. And then, just order a copy of any court proceedings yourself.
There are the WOTR personnel and supporters who accuse me and others of “having a part” in the seizure of the birds in their care. None of us own a piece of that failure. It lies squarely on Deborah Shell, the Board Members of Wings Over the Rainbow and the WOTR volunteers who did nothing. Whether you think I or others are right or wrong in “our part”, we were asked to help care for the birds from the onset and that was “our part”. And that’s what we will continue to do until all are placed. I have no regrets and I know the other dedicated volunteers don’t either. We insured the birds were provided the care so many nay-sayers said they wouldn’t receive and to fault us for that shows shameful neglect and ignorance. To blame the Greater Dayton Humane Society for the animal abuse and neglect they found at WOTR and that Deborah Shell pled guilty to, is shameful.
Am I happy that a parrot rescue was shut down? Absolutely not! There aren’t enough of these in Ohio, let alone across the country. My reason, like many others involved, was to do it for the birds. Nothing more, nothing less and I would do it all over again.
And to the lone parakeet and the 130+ birds I’ve cared for, I am sorry this wasn’t done sooner.