Recently I have seen several articles regarding what someone thinks is or isn’t proper rescue. I have heard how having a 501c3 means nothing, it’s just a piece of paper. Yes, it is a piece of paper, one that took many hours of work to get. It took writing and instituting policy and procedure that we can be held accountable for. It took learning the proper way to fill Board of Director positions, not using family members, as this is and always will be a conflict of interest. It also requires knowing at least some business tax/accounting education, even if self taught. Does it mean a rescue is good or bad? No, but it did take an effort and shows that the people were actually willing to put in the time and learn what they needed to know. Yes, some rescues pay to have it all done by an accountant but the majority of small rescues did not, they put in the hours themselves.
I have heard how having a nice website doesn’t matter, it can all be made up with fake photos. I personally think not having a nice website to offer education, share the birds journey that are in your care, etc. is kind of weird. Does it mean a rescue is good or bad? No. It does however show they are willing to put the time into sharing what they are doing and their purpose.
Just today, I heard how having experience also means nothing. How the rescue person cringes every time someone says they have years of experience in proper bird care. To that, my response would be this. First and foremost hear the person out! Yes, I know plenty of people who say, “I have been doing this for years” but have been doing it all wrong during all those years. Seeing only dollar signs rather than a living and breathing entity. I have also learned much from others who have been doing this for a long time and yes, even breeders! No, I do not promote or support breeding in any way, shape or form. However, if you tune out and turn off to someone just because they are or have been a breeder, you may have just cheated yourself right out of some very good information and knowledge. There are things that a reputable breeder knows how to do, treat, understand more than a person who has only done rescue. For example, you have a very sick bird, it is the weekend and there are no emergency vets available who treat birds. Do you know how to set up a hospital cage for your bird? Do you know how to properly hand feed or gavage feed your sick bird? Do you know what to do for a bird with symptoms of respiratory distress? How about an egg bound bird? I guarantee you that if you talk to a reputable breeder who has years of experience they will know how to do all these things and will be most happy to help you when there is no other alternative.Does this mean all breeders fit this description or can replace your vet? No. It means you should not pass up a chance to learn something new. It means not everyone has the luxury of having a vet available 24/7.
I have seen written that if you use stacked cages you are a bad rescue and just hoarding. If you do not do every blood test and X-ray known to man on a new intake then you are a bad rescue. If you don’t allow visitors you are a bad rescue. If you don’t publicly post you’re financials you are a bad rescue. If you aren’t a 501c3 you’re a bad rescue, funny isn’t it, I thought having a 501c3 meant nothing, it was just a piece of paper! If you do not have hundreds of thousands of dollars in a trust to be solvent then you are just going to be a mess for someone else to clean up. And the list goes on and on!
Here is a novel idea, how about we look at the entire situation with each other, each individual rescue or even each individual bird. Do the birds have clean cages? Are they getting a good diet? Do they get out of their cages? Do they get social interaction? Do they have toys and enrichment? Do they get basic vet care? Where are the birds housed? Is the rescue licensed? Do they freely answer questions? Do they offer education about bird care? Do they just hand off a bird to a person because the person wants that particular bird? Is there follow up? Are the people caring for the birds knowledgeable and seem to genuinely care for the birds? Do they strive to improve the individual bird’s life?
If we continue to focus on good vs bad, stringent, set ways of doing things, etc. who are we helping? Who are we hurting? The birds? There are so many factors that play into the overall whole picture, even something as simple as geographic location. FL, TX and CA are the leading areas in number of birds per household, hence these regions will see more unwanted birds. These states are ripe with breeding because the weather is suitable year round.
My question to nay sayers about taking in a bird without meeting their criteria, what do you propose happens to the bird when the rescue says no? Euthanization? Sold or worse yet given away for free on Craigslist? The bird will be turned loose to fend for itself? Given to a breeder because that’s the only person left who will take it? Turned over to a dog/cat shelter who will simply sell it to the highest bidder or first come first serve mentality? Am I advocating hoarding? No! I am saying as long as the birds needs are met and it is not going somewhere worse than it’s coming from in the form of care given which of the above choices would you prefer? I am also not saying you should never say no and take in a bird you cannot care for properly. We all need to be a bit more understanding and bit less judgmental. I asked our vet one time what he felt constituted hoarding. His reply may shock you! He said hoarding is not about a number, it is about the ability to provide proper diet, adequate housing, toys and enrichment, socialization, a clean environment and vet care when needed. He also said it was defined by people who thought no one could provide better care for a companion animal than themselves and thereby refusing to find a new home and better life for the bird. The refusal to adopt out a bird because you think no one else can love it more or provide more for it.
I am not saying by any means that there are no standards to which someone should be held accountable. I am simply saying look at the entire picture and the overall outcome rather than just bits and pieces. With all the judgement comes a big price that is paid by the birds, not the humans. The Avian Welfare Coalition has a nice list of what legitimate rescues do and what they don’t do if you have a need for such a list in writing. I hope that one day there will be a governing body that oversees rescues and sanctuaries, one that is made up of knowledgeable people, ones who see the overall picture as well as the individual bird.