: Moraine, Ohio
: More than 130 parrots
The air inside Wings Over the Rainbow parrot facility was thick with the stench of rodent feces and urine. A cacophony of squawks greeted HSUS responders, veterinarians, and bird handlers as they arrived to remove the animals from a storefront in May. The Humane Society of Greater Dayton had asked The HSUS to assist in the rescue after receiving complaints about the facility, which had been operating as a nonprofit parrot rescue. Many of the birds appeared to be suffering from longstanding injuries and ailments: a cockatoo missing his entire upper beak, a conure who had to walk on her ankles, dozens of nearly featherless birds. Others lacked access to clean water, fresh food, or enrichment. A pair of macaws in a barren cage clung to each other, peering out defensively while rescuers assessed the conditions.
One by one, the team carefully transferred the birds from cages to carriers, then onto the rescue vehicle headed for the emergency shelter. It was the first deployment of its kind for The HSUS, says animal cruelty investigations director Adam Parascandola, and it presented a set of unique challenges-and opportunities. "We routinely can deal with 200 to 300 dogs, but for this situation we were really starting from scratch," he says. Weeks before the rescue, the team consulted with bird veterinarians and experts to gather avian-specific medical equipment, plus 24 pallets of cages, food, and toys from PetSmart Charities.
"Frankly, we like a challenge," Parascandola says. "We felt like it was important to respond and help this agency."
Once at the emergency shelter, the birds seemed to settle in quickly. Cockatoos cooed at shelter workers when they passed their cages, saying "hi" and "I love you." That sociability and intelligence have long ensnared parrots in the pet trade, with many of them ending up homeless or in sub-standard conditions for much of their long lives.
Would-be buyers are often uninformed about the steep challenges to keeping parrots happy in captivity-the time, the space, the patience-and many owners simply relinquish their birds when it all becomes too much. The result is a crisis of unwanted parrots, exacerbated by unrestricted breeding for the pet trade. What's really going to change the game, Parascandola says, is "more outreach to the public in terms of what's going on with birds in this country." He hopes rescues like this one are a good place to start.
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To learn more, visit www.humanesociety.org/helpparrots
Katie Carrus is the managing editor of humanesociety.org
Reprinted from All Animals magazine with permission from The Humane Society of the United States; humanesociety.org.