After receiving several requests to write an article in my own words about what it is like to run a parrot rescue, I looked around online and found many great sources of information for the passionate people who want to save the birds that they love; but there isn’t much on the emotional toll it takes. My hope for this article is to give people new to rescue some insight on the trials, tribulations and triumphs of managing a rescue. My aim is also to shed some light on why rescues do what they do including: why they require so much information from adopters and why many would rather try to work with you so you can keep your bird or find it a home instead of relinquishing it to a rescue.
I wont be the first one to tell you that running a rescue of any kind isn’t easy. It takes a very passionate person to fully commit their lives to animals in need – not only because of the many animals that need help, but also due to dealing with the public. As if caring for the birds – giving them fresh water and food multiple times a day, changing cage papers daily, making toys and bird food mixes, and working with behavioral and medical issues isn’t time-consuming enough – facilitating adoptions, fosters, keeping a web page updated, and answering phone calls from owners needing advice takes up any remaining free time you thought you might have. The majority of rescuers also have full-time or part-time jobs to support themselves and their passion for parrot rescue – that’s right, running a rescue often does not support itself. For those of you out there who think we must have a lot of time on our hands because we rescue animals – we just work ten times harder for what we believe in, from sunrise to sunset (and often beyond).
If you think I’m crazy, you should meet my birds!
Parrots come to us from all sorts of situations: owner death, abuse or neglect cases, hoarding cases, bad breeding situations, or just from people who had a life change and cannot care for the bird anymore. Because of this, a wide variety of personalities, quirks, and disabilities can be found in a bird rescue. We deal with the heartbreak of plucking and mutilating birds, birds with broken wings who are unable to fly as nature intended, birds who are terrified and birds who can have unpredictable behavior and birds who are mourning the loss of their loved ones. Combine a bunch of fart noises and evil laughs into the mix, and at times it can feel as though you are managing an insane asylum of the feathered variety.
If you plan on running a rescue or working with multiple birds, you had better just give up looking presentable for the public. Before committing my life to the parrots, I would take time every morning for make-up and extravagant pin-up style hairstyles; I now spend my mornings caring for the birds – perhaps more rewarding and entertaining, but on occasion I do miss my morning “me” time. That is only one example; the world of rescue is means making a lot of sacrifices – major and minor – on your part.
Don’t depend on anyone for your success.
Money is a touchy subject, but cannot be missed in an article about managing a rescue. How much money should you start with? If a person wanting to start a rescue just sat around waiting for donations to add up, there would be no rescues in existence. Donations are very sporadic and can be few and far between, and if you do receive a donation from someone that means they absolutely trust you and share your passion; thanks to all of the shady people out there, it takes a lot to gain the public’s trust in the rescue world. After obtaining proper caging, toys and supplies, and establishing yourself with an avian veterinarian, make sure you have an adequate savings account to cover any emergencies that may occur. The amount needed depends on how many birds you intend to take in. Aim high, because even if you reach your limit it is close to impossible to refuse a bird that is near death and desperately needs you, and that one bird can cost you thousands in veterinary care.
Stand up for what you believe in, even if it means standing alone.
You may follow rescues or animal advocates on social media sites and wonder why they share images of abused parrots. Why do we feel we have to keep sharing unpleasant such things? The reason behind this is due to the fact that we see things just like those images in person all too frequently. We know it is hard to look at – it is hard for us too. But it never ceases to amaze us when so many people from the general public ask about parrot rescue and are shocked that such a need even exists. Sharing quotes, images, and stories throughout social media helps get the word out, and even if just a few new people see it, maybe those few could also make a difference by sharing, volunteering, adopting or educating. It’s just another attempt to make a positive out of something negative; in order for things to change, awareness needs to spread.
Someday, everything will make perfect sense.
I frequently see complaints that rescues are impossible to adopt from, needing too much personal information or even wanting to do home checks. I have also heard complaints on high adoption fees. I cannot speak for other rescues; all of us come from different situations, but I can shed some light on why some rescues are hard to deal with compared to a pet store. We see first-hand what our birds have been through – at the hands of another human being -- before arriving at our rescue. We spend the time and pour our hearts into rehabilitating them and readying them for their next home; during this time, we can’t help but form a bond with the birds. The only thing we care about is their safety and where they end up after us. The average large parrot is rehomed seven to eight times in its life, with many being tossed around more than that. Rescues ask for personal information, adoption applications, contracts and rehoming fees not to antagonize you or deter you from adopting, but because we care very deeply about these birds. Unlike a pet store, rescues should be in no rush to move birds out – after all, we aren’t making a profit – we only focus on finding them a happy, loving future.
Birds should not be given away for free for several reasons, the first being for the safety of the bird. There are many not-nice people in the world that seek out free animals to sell them, and who knows where those poor creatures end up. Second, with extensive vet bills, food and supplies, we would not be able to keep helping birds in need if we did not charge an adoption fee. A true rescue takes the adoption fee and puts it straight back into their rescue missions – it is 100 percent not-for-profit. Third, the adoption fee that you pay may just save another birds life; not only are you giving one a forever home, you are saving more lives than one.
Negative thoughts should lead to positive actions.
As a rescue we deal with odd and upsetting messages every day such as people threatening to euthanize their bird if we do not take them, or people offering to trade their old television sets for a parrot from our rescue. We regularly have incoming messages from kind-hearted animal lovers who are witnessing neglect and want our help to stop it. It’s a big, overwhelming world out there. Often the negative things outweigh the positives, and when you are such a passionate person doing everything you can in your power to help these animals, sometimes it’s difficult to keep a level head.
I once saw a comment from a forum that compared a parrot rescue to a child orphanage. At first, I was insulted; but then I thought about the comparison and found it to be disheartenly accurate. It is ironic when people go to a rescue to relinquish their bird with the only reason being they feel they do not spend enough time with it. The more animals a rescue gets, the more volunteers are needed and the majority of the time less one-on-one attention is available. Attempting to talk an owner into actively seeking a home for their otherwise healthy bird is a regular thing, but on most occasions once someone’s mind is made up, they want that animal out right away. This is especially hard for the smaller rescues with limited space; often the “little guys” try to keep their space opened for high-priority urgent cases that they may be a last chance for.
With large amounts of continued for-profit captive breeding combined with parrots outliving their owners, the need for rescue is not only endless, but it is growing. This is something that is in the back of our minds every day. It is the support from people like you that helps us keep moving -- and it doesn’t all have to do with money – it could be itemized donations, offers to volunteer, or just simple kind words of support to let us know you care. It gets depressing while trying to stay motivated by all the negatives; we need to hear and feel the positives and be reminded that we are, in fact, making a difference in the world.
You have to fight through some bad days to have the best days of your life.
By now you are thinking that being active in the rescue world comes with a lot of negativity, but I’m not writing this to deter anyone – we need all of the help we can get. The feeling of giving back to the world and being fortunate enough to bond with such intelligent creatures is something that cannot be put into words. The experiences of helping them recover from neglect and then witnessing them choose their forever person soars well beyond the feeling of joy.
It may not be perfect here but it’s better than where they came from; and the ones who had a good life before coming to our rescue? At least we know that they are being loved and cared for now while their new family is being found.