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WHY SHOULD WE CARE & WHY WE DO WE CARE?

Why Does The Plight Of Parrots Matter?

Countless parrots across North America have been forgotten. These parrots have been locked in a cage—frequently way too small for them—and covered, placed in a dark closet, bedroom, basement, or even in a cold shed or garage. This is often done to keep them quiet, or because the owner is tired of the mess that they make. They endure days, weeks, months, years, and even decades of this treatment. They are put into storage and forgotten like an old piece of furniture. They are invisible. No one sees them, no one hears them, no one knows their plight except for the owner who put them there. They have no chance of escape, and only a few are ever rescued. 
 
Why does this happen? It is never the parrot's fault, no matter what kind of excuses and justifications the owner may find. The parrot did not jump into a cage and beg to be a pet for the rest of its life. The blame does not even lie with parrot breeders. This is a problem created by people, and the blame rests entirely on the person who decided that it would be a great idea to bring a parrot into their home for all the wrong reasons. They make the decision without any clue as to what it might realistically involve.
 
When the great idea sours because the parrot does not behave the way that the owner expects, or it involves too much time and work, makes too big a mess, and is just generally inconvenient, the owner is too selfish to do what is morally and ethically correct. There is no consideration for the living creature trapped in the cage, but only concern for how this mistake in judgment affects the owner. Many try to sell the parrot, but refuse to take a financial loss. So the parrot is moved out of sight, given food and water when the owner remembers, and becomes one of countless neglected parrots condemned to a lifetime of silent suffering.
 
Of course, not every parrot owner is irresponsible. Many do the research, and the decision to bring a parrot into their life is an informed one. The owner has every intention of cherishing the parrot and giving it a good home forever. But it is very difficult for anyone to predict how life will change in the next 50 years, and so almost impossible to guarantee a home to a parrot for that long.
 
Often circumstances arise which make it impossible to care for the parrot anymore. These owners are willing to take a financial loss to find a good home for the parrot but innocently think that, because they cherished the parrot and did their best to give it the very best of care, everyone interested in owning a parrot will do the same. They do their best to find good caregivers for the parrot, and are very sad to have to give up the parrot, but often do not consider that the parrot will be very sad as well. 
 
In either case, whether the parrot was purchased on a whim or after lengthy deliberation, whether it ended up sadly neglected or a cherished family member, the sale of that parrot made room for another parrot to enter the system. Another parrot will be bred whose destiny rests with the fickleness of human nature. Another parrot will enter the black hole of the pet trade to end up just as forgotten as its predecessors. Another beautiful, intelligent, emotional parrot will be condemned to a long, futile life of waiting. Waiting for love and understanding, waiting for attention, waiting to be heard. Waiting to be allowed to simply be a parrot.


Why Is It Important To Not Buy Or Breed But To Re-Home A Parrot In Need?

For every fledgling parrot that is bred for sale to a new caregiver, there are millions of unwanted and neglected parrots languishing across North America. Each one of these forgotten parrots was at one time a sweet baby parrot waiting for its first home.
 
Some new caregivers who want a companion parrot as a pet believe that it is best to get one very young, as they don't want to deal with any issues that may have developed with the parrot's previous owner. If this is the sole reason a new caregiver has for wanting a fledgling parrot over a rescue parrot or a parrot that is being given up by their owner, then the new caregiver-to-be is not only part of the problem, but is wanting a parrot under false assumptions.
 
Assuming that every used parrot is somehow undesirable because it has been re-homed and may have neurotic tendencies or behavioural problems is simply wrong. Other reasons that caregivers may have for wanting a fledgling parrot—such as they are cuter and more cuddly; they will bond with the new caregiver faster; they will be easier to care for; or they will acclimate faster with their new caregiver and home environment—are somewhat misguided.
 
Some of these reasons have merit, but only to a point. The people who want a companion parrot as a pet for any of the reasons above should think twice before they rush out and buy one. Using ANY of these reasons in determining to bring a captive companion into the home is self-centred and unrealistic. Baby parrots, like any baby animal, eventually grow up. And they are adults a lot longer than they are babies. If a cute, cuddly, easy-to-care-for pet is what a potential parrot caregiver wants, then the caregiver is bound to be disappointed, and the baby parrot is bound to soon join the ranks of re-homed, used parrots.
 
Not every parrot that needs to be re-homed comes from bad homes or has neurotic tendencies or behavioural problems. Plenty of well-adjusted parrots are looking for a new home simply because their owners are not able to care for them anymore. There is more information out there than ever explaining why it is best to take in an unwanted companion parrot, as opposed to perpetuating the problem of too many unwanted parrots by purchasing a new parrot from a breeder or pet store. There are already insufficient  homes that can provide proper care for parrots, and thousands of parrot rescue organizations are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of unwanted parrots. Purchasing from a breeder or pet store just adds another companion parrot to the system. Even with the best intentions and an informed commitment by the new caregiver, it is very likely that the brand-new baby parrot will need to be re-homed at least once, and more likely several times, in its lifetime.
 
If the potential parrot caretaker truly thinks that having a parrot in the home is what they want, then the onus is on them to educate themselves. Not only must they understand the nature of parrots, but they must fully understand and acknowledge the impact that their decision will have on the plight of all captive companion parrots. The caregiver must be humble enough to accept that any problems a used parrot may have are created by humans, and that it is very likely they too will make mistakes and create problems in a baby parrot.
 
The relationship that they develop with the baby parrot will change as the parrot matures, and there is a chance that the maturing parrot will reject the caregiver. No baby remains a baby forever, and no maturing animal remains with its parents forever. A caregiver must be able to commit to caring for the parrot in accordance with the parrot's telos, through thick and thin, through love and rejection, resisting hurt feelings and bruised egos, without retaliation for the slights that the parrot may inflict, FOREVER. The caregiver must also acknowledge that, even if they are able to make and keep this promise for a very long time, the parrot will most likely have to be re-homed at some point in its life.
 
Many parrots need a new home, and there are many ways for a potential parrot caretaker to find them. Some are available through pet stores which will take parrots in on consignment for owners. Many are available on the Internet through sites such as Kijiji. However, as with most things on the Internet, there are many scams associated with parrot sales, and the buyer must be very cautious. And of course, there a many parrots available through non-profit parrot rescue organizations. These rescue organizations are not in the business of promoting parrots as pets, and are the ones on the frontline trying to deal with the parrot re-homing crisis. No matter which of these avenues a potential parrot caretaker chooses, the results are the same. A needy parrot is removed from the cycle of re-homing, and no new parrots are bred to replenish sale stock.
 
Mature parrots looking for a new home have several positive attributes. These parrots have some life experience, most have basic social skills when interacting with people, and they have developed a personality. There are no surprises as far as care requirements go for these parrots. The size of cage required, the noise and mess that they make, and their preferences in food, toys, and companions are all readily apparent and are not going to change much.
 
If the parrot has a penchant for talking, it will be saying words. If the parrot enjoys learning and performing tricks, it will be displaying these skills. If the parrot has some neurotic behaviours, it is readily apparent what coping mechanisms the parrot resorts to, and often the triggers that pushed the parrot to these behaviours are known. In short, the parrot is a known entity. The potential caregiver will know immediately what they are taking on. They will know if the parrot is appropriate for their lifestyle, the amount of room that they have, and if the parrot is willing to interact with them. They will know if they have the confidence and skill level to handle the parrot.
 
These used parrots have done nothing wrong and quite simply need a new place to live and a new family to interact with. By the single act of giving a used parrot a forever home, two lives have been saved from the re-homing roller coaster: the parrot being given a home and the parrot that would be bred to replenish stock at the pet store or breeder.
 
Pet stores and breeders sell parrots to make money. They are not concerned that the parrot may live for 80 years, that the purchaser may not know what to expect from parrot ownership or how to care for the parrot. They don't think about how many times a parrot will be re-homed, how many end up neglected, or how many end up in sanctuaries. They don't think about whether the parrot will be happy or end up a neurotic mess. Their job is to get the parrot out of the egg and past the cash register. After that, the responsibility falls to the unsuspecting purchaser. Parrots are bred for profit, not for the welfare of the parrot. As with any animal bred for the pet industry, there are good breeders and bad breeders. Regardless of the size of the breeding operation, or the conditions that the animals are kept in, the fact remains that breeders want to make a profit. 
 
The biggest problem is the industrialized parrot-breeding farms. Not all these farms are owned and operated by corporations. The term "industrialized parrot-breeding farms" is used to describe the type of parrot-breeding facility that has a goal of producing as many parrot fledglings as possible at the lowest cost per "unit". Regardless of who runs them, whether they are private or corporate, these industrialized parrot-breeding farms are the parrot equivalent to puppy mills in the way the parrots are housed, cared for, and treated.
 
Although most people can grasp the horror of what puppy mills are and why they still exist, most people don't know, understand, and can't comprehend what parrot farms are. Breeding parrots is not as easy as breeding puppies, and a good breeding pair can end up producing fledglings for decades. These parrots spend 20 to 30 years as confined egg-producing machines to supply the parrot trade with low-cost product so that consumers can have easy, cheap access to parrots as pets.
 
According to Karen Windsor Foster Parrots, Ltd. & The New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary;
 
[...]There are more than 2500 parrot breeders in operation nationwide, each producing anywhere from 10 over 65 different parrot species per farm – or factory.  It is common for large breeders to house anywhere between 500 and 1000 breeding birds.
 
For example:
Scudder’s Parrot Depot in Washington State came under fire starting in 1999 with at least 800 parrots being held and bred under what can only be described as criminally negligent and abusive conditions so abhorrent as to incite a legal battle that waged from 1999 to 2006. This legal battle, of course, ended in a sweeping victory for Scudders and the larger Washington State breeding community when, with a legal team funded by the AFA, they succeeded in blocking proposed legislation that would mandate licensing and standards of care in breeding facilities in the state of Washington.
                                                                                                                                                
Beech’s Bird Nest Ranch of North Carolina, a one-time field research farm for Kaytee Pet Products, liquidated it’s stock of 500 parrots in a public auction in March of 2007.
 
The Luv Them Birds Breeding facility located in Loxahatchee Florida, owned and operated by former Gabriel Foundation Board member Kathleen Szabo,  put 642 breeding birds up for public auction in September of 2009. These represented over 300 proven breeding pairs producing between 2 to 8 babies per pair per year, as disclosed by the breeder herself.[...]

[...]To this day, the standard set-up for a breeding facility is a succession of barren cages devoid of enrichments with boxes attached.  Aviculture has dictated that toys and enrichments – and even daylight – distracts parrots from their job, which is simply to mate and produce eggs. To this day shipping unweaned parrots that are merely days old to retail locations and/or selling unweaned babies directly to consumers is perfectly legal and widely practiced.[...]

It's unfortunate, but because people are so focused on what they want now, they don't pause to consider the implications for ANY parrot involved. New caregivers are still purchasing fledglings from breeders and pet stores. Here is an example of a blue and gold macaw that was breed to be sold, and is being sold again, at only 9 months of age. The ad was listed on Kijiji in 2013: "9 months old blue and yellow macaw $3,000 with brand new cage which the cage alone is $1,000. No time to really care and watch the bird. Speaks and knows lots of words. Born July 7, 2012. Friendly tamed not wild can be let out the cage with no problem or harming anyone."
 
How quick we are to want something, and how quick we change our minds once we have it. This parrot is still a juvenile. It has not even made it partway through the first year of its potential 60-year lifespan, and it is already looking for its second home. Just like the breeder and the pet store, this owner is selling the fact that the parrot is "Friendly tamed not wild can be let out the cage with no problem or harming anyone." At 9 months old, of course it is. But once it matures and the hormones kick in, this will change very drastically. And depending on the care that this parrot receives over time, not just anyone and maybe no one at all, will be able to handle him. And the cycle continues …
 
We as a society understand that in the past, people did things that needed to be done in order to survive. We hunted, killed, and used animals to eat and to make our lives easier. With our industrialized animal agriculture and technology today, we have sanitized the process in our own minds. We have distanced ourselves from what actually happens to animals and how they are commoditized in all aspects of the animal trade. We have become a society that struggles with fractionalized time. We divide our attention between career advancement, family, entertainment, and diversions. These diversions at the end of the day are of no consequence to our survival. We are just bored enough to want our diversions fulfilled at the cost of an animal's happiness.
 
The problem of unwanted parrots is huge and continues to grow. As long as breeders and pet stores can successfully market parrots as tame, easy-to-care-for companion pets, and as long as there are people who believe the hype and are buying parrots, there will always be an abundance of unwanted, neglected, and improperly cared-for companion parrots looking for a new home. Every companion parrot sold is, at some point in its life, looking for that elusive forever home where it will be allowed to be a parrot and live according to its telos.
 
There are few enough homes, good or bad, available for unwanted parrots. If you still want a companion parrot as a pet after all you've read, if your lifestyle allows you to properly to care for a companion parrot, if you fully understand what that parrot's needs are, if you fully acknowledge the responsibilities that you incur by taking in a companion parrot, if you can give of yourself and do what is necessary to provide a parrot with a proper life forever, if you do not want to be part of the problem, then open your heart and your home to an unwanted parrot. By taking in an unwanted companion parrot you are not only making a positive difference in that parrot’s life, but in the lives of many.
 
 


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