Over some 30 years I have seen the need for Rescues and Sanctuaries spin out of control. We in the bird world have come into it like many, we see these wonderful, intelligent creatures, and we want to share our lives not thinking about the consequences for them. I’m one who knew nothing about birds, but wanted to give a poor unfortunate bird a better life. I was very fortunate; I found one of the best known avian vets in my backyard. But being realistic that doesn’t happen for everybody. Well now 30 years later birds are being handed over at such high rates, that it boggles the mind. The reasons are many divorce, loss of a job, death of an owner, the list goes on, and on. So rescues, and sanctuaries are becoming filled to the brink, and now rescues are being rescued or shutting down because they can no longer care for what they promised to care for.
I cannot say enough Birds are not Lay’s Potato Chips, You can stop at one. But smaller rescues don’t, they take in more that they can deal with. Let’s face the fact’s rescues, and sanctuaries are run by people. We all want to help all birds who have fallen to desperate times. It is up to us to control what we bring in, and how we care for the charges we take in. I have to think about each, and every bird that comes in, can I take care of that bird even if temporary, there is the cost of vetting, housing, feeding, toys, and any medications. Do I have room to quarantine that bird from others for a period of time? This is where many, and I mean many, small rescues get into trouble. I commend the small mom and pop rescues, who take in birds, and pay for things out of their own pockets. But when do you say stop? You have taken these birds in and what happens to their future, when you can no longer care for them? Or there is a death of your companion, who either brought in the income to pay for the running of the rescue, or helped care for your charges?
There are the bird clubs who have a solid foundation, with its board of directors who are more capable of sustaining itself, with fundraisers, and other things to help pay for the needs of the birds they bring in. They mainly rely on foster care homes to feed, house and care for these little ones. But even then foster care homes usually become bonded to their foster birds, adopt them and fill up. Then they can no longer take in any more birds. Now that club has no more room, or foster care providers. Now what? More birds need homes….
Ladies and Gentlemen be aware of the differences. There are very good Rescues, and Sanctuaries, and these are the ones who are bailing out the other rescues who are now being raided, shut down, and they are the ones who are given the Black eye from what was once a good name. Rescue! Yes believe it or not the word “Rescue” was a good word. It does not appear to be that way any longer. We need to change this back to its good meaning very soon or there will be no place for the creatures we hold closest to our heart to go and the only answer will be Euthanasia. That’s right I did not stutter, euthanasia. Is that we are headed towards? If we don’t change a number of things the answer is yes.
What do we do from here on out to change it before it’s too late? Okay so you want to start a rescue. It’s a lot of work, people need to network, and these days it’s so easy. I can’t tell you how many clubs, and rescues are on facebook. Network a rescue, if you have several clubs or organizations in say a hundred mile radius meet, put together an exploratory board. Take the best and brightest from all groups, frame up a board of directors, set up your committees, file your state paperwork, file for the 501c3 decide what it is you want to do, and agree to it. Once that is done you need to start deciding on a location, if you can get land donated, even better, See if you can get a mobile home for a building to work out of. Funds have to be raised, and allocated for everything, and a budget needs to be written, and stuck to.
Flights need to be built; sturdy buildings need to be built to house feed and care for the birds when weather prevents them to be outdoors. Include an area for veterinary care so a vet can work, and set up to do basic exams. For god sakes have a good strong easily cleaned quarantine area to house new birds in for a minimum of 45 days. Build an education, and training center, and if you can and have the funds build a meeting / conference, hall that could be rented out for other events to offset costs.
Does it sound easy, NO, but that’s truly what is needed today, there are several groups who you could resource to get started. Project Perry, Best Friends and so on, these are the people who have done it right, isn’t this is what our birds should have, isn’t this what we want for them? I know I do.
If you don’t build with the plan of getting Certified by Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, or American Sanctuary Association you’re not likely to survive.
So what to look for in the meantime for those we love, until more serious sanctuaries are organized. Make sure any Rescue and or Sanctuary is neat and clean in appearance. Are the cages all crammed together, or is there space? Look at all the birds to they appear happy and healthy? Are the birds playful? Do they have toys, Are they voice tress? Ask to see health records of other birds, are they in order? Do they have a quarantine area? Check online for reviews. Have others heard of them, or their reputation, and ask more than one person. Everybody has an opinion. So get more than one. Call the Humane Society in the area where the rescue is located, ask if there have been any issues, or reports. Find out if they have a Board of Directors, do they have a long-term plan to stay in business? What is it? If one or more of these questions cannot not be answered, this maybe a red flag. Again get on Facebook, or the avian forums you will learn a lot in short order. There some good and not so good rescues are out there like anyplace.
Rescues usually re-home the birds that they get, ask what their procedures are, ask to see the forms they use, if they foster their birds out ask to see one or two foster homes. If they charge a fee ask what those fees are. Do they do home visits before adopting a bird? I cannot tell you how many times I see Rescues charge more than half of what someone would pay for a bird from a breeder. If the price alerts you, then there is a red flag your bird maybe there for quite some time. The last thing ask to see references of homes they have adopted to, and if they mind you calling an adoptive home.
Another thing real rescues and sanctuaries do not rely on volunteers, they may have them but they will not rely on volunteers to do the day-to-day care and maintenance of the birds, and grounds they have. Volunteers can become unreliable, or depending on the seasons, school year, and economy this can have an effect on volunteer rolls at any given time. If a rescue or sanctuary is counting on volunteers to do the work, this is another red flag. And again this one is likely to fail. The biggest red flag of all is if a rescue, or sanctuary is constantly begging for money with threats of “we will be closing down if we don’t get this amount”, Or they have a poster Bird of the month who is in need of major vet care, and my other favorite is they are adding to the problem by breeding to raise money for the rescue. Look all Rescues and Sanctuaries need money, and on an occasion they need emergency funds for a very sick bird, which needs a life saving procedure, I don’t think any of us have an issue with that, but when it goes on, and on every month, my eyebrows are raised.
No one has an issue helping the groups out who do the work others can’t, and they are all over the place in the bird world, and there are groups helping Rescues, and Sanctuaries in other ways. Like providing much-needed services like Parrot Troopers who helps by raising funds for toys for Rescues and Sanctuaries, There’s Wings on Wheels who arranges transport of Birds either to new homes, or good reliable rescues or sanctuaries.
There are rescues and sanctuaries who are in store fronts, have a professional look and appearance, they preach the right message, and talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. They tout the words like non-profit, 501c3, board of directors, so on, and so on. The word folk’s is HOARDERS. Or even worse. I know that some reading this will be not be happy that I wrote this article well that’s fine. If you can answer questions honestly, and have a good outcome, great! If you can’t, fix it, make it better. If you’re a con artist using birds as a hostages, well all I can tell you is we’re gunning for you.
Until we in effect have the real rescues and sanctuaries our birds deserve we need to be ever so vigilante in what we are doing, and what we are creating. I think the biggest shame in the world would be that one day the next generation would not get to bask in the beauty of what god created, with his paint brush in all the colors of the parrots that are here. They still are losing the battle of freedom, but what’s even worse they are losing the battle to survive in captivity because more of what man does.
“It’s not about what I do today that matters, It’s what I leave behind for the future that does.