Laws and Parrots in Estonia

Global laws and the companions they affect are a front line for advocacy work.

Laws and Parrots in Estonia

After Amazon parrot Carolyna came home after so long living in a pet shop, I had time in my mind. What about other birds in other pet shops who are living there more than five years and mostly all their life in different pet shops? These birds are older than 5 and they are brought here from Pet Trade chain. Can I be happy to be in my home and look to my pretty rescued bird and feel that it´s all is over? No, I can not feel free that with rescuing one parrot the pet shop irresponsible business will be over! I felt that I must do something to bring attention to that confined situation about pet birds conditions in trade here in my home country Estonia.

I started to read and learn what kind of rules are written to protect parrot rights here in Estonia. I realized that in truth we have in our Law restrictions and all necessary points for normal pet bird keeping regulations. What we do not have are educated officials who would be competent to assess parrot keeping conditions from normal to profoundly abnormal. And that is a very big shortage in our system and perhaps not only in Estonia.

I wrote down an article about this theme to bring more attention about parrots whose needs in pet shop are not provided and about the primitive situation in which supervision officials work. My article went to Estonian news paper Postimees to an online animals column called Lemmik and after that seems that some little changes started to happen: http://lemmik.postimees.ee/3633879/jana-oidermaa-poelindude-eluolu-ja-seadus-mis-reguleerib-linnupidamist

I know that big changes will never happen and we will always have misunderstanding and abuse cases in parrot keeping until we have changes in our law. And until we have somebody who will advocate here for parrots rights. Who else will do that if nobody had done it before? If I will not do these changes then who else will do that? All these questions are up for working. I must work very hard even if it will not bring a great success but starting at somewhere is better to not start at all.

Estonia is small independent country since 1991. We have very variegated history and we have belonged to many different countries during all Estonian history. The first signs about population in Estonian area were found from the middle of the 8th millennium BC. We have a very rich national culture which developed from a very early time. Parrots never belonged to our culture. They came inside by time and for now they also do not have a special part in pet keeping culture because understanding them and their needs have not developed yet in our area. As we are located near the sea then by the history some wild caught species were brought here from time to time by sailors. Our climate is quite cold and we have long dark periods in winter and autumn. Parrots were usually kept as caged pet birds and their lifespan have been not often very long. In these times to buy a parrot it sounded something unreachable and very exotic. Parrot owners were usually very rich people here who had contacts with sailors and of course big money to buy parrots. But times changed, changed our political system, borders went open and first pet shops and breeders appeared in Europe countries.

At the beginning it all was because a very big passion to own a parrot like something wild at home. Nobody looked deep into parrots' needs at these times. Everything was based on needs of human and their interest to own something special. This way started our local pet shops to bring different parrot species to sell. They found out that this is a big earning opportunity. Prices stays always high and despite of that they found buyers anyway. Most commonly sold species were small and middle sized parakeets and parrots. Very seldom we knew what is happening during transportation of these birds and how many birds died before they reached a shop. As birds import increased, also with that increased the number of unwanted and mistreated parrots. For obvious reasons we do not have so many good homes as parrots are produced for pet trade industry.

People buy parrots for different reasons and they very seldom consider to think about their natural being. Besides, here in last decade, the number of parrots imported increased also because businessmen who brings parrots from European breeders and sell them from home. Usually they come from robust conditions and often are not in good health. It is a very hard part in that and people, when buying a parrot, very seldom thinks about it beforehand.

Pet Trade is huge chain whose income depends on how many animals and birds they can sell and how many customers they bring back to buy goods for their pets. They do not care about quality of transportation and needed conditions for different species. They usually are not prepared to keep animals living there and therefore they do not offer normal conditions for pet birds. One very big pet shop trade brought here to sell large parrots for very high price. Green-Winged Macaw price stayed for more than 5000 euros, Moluccan Cockatoo price was more than 4000 euros. It is a just one little number of my counting of birds which they are selling here for more than five years. And the reason is more for entertaining because they have no need to sell them at all as these large birds are for entertainment for shop visitors who come to look them and buy goods at same time. Mostly they quickly sell smaller species in big numbers.

At the beginning, in the first years, these large pet shop parrots looked in normal condition. Their feathers looked nice and clean but over time their appearance went more worse. As people visit these shops quite often we realized that these poor birds have no daylight in the cage room because all the shop rooms have no windows. They have no water conditions to clean feathers and rinse the skin. They have never had vegetables and fruits to eat. They eat only seed mixes which the shop sells. They have no way for exercise and fly in that cage room and are never taken out. They have no opportunity for chewing materials and for proper care. In conclusion, the shop system ignores all the parrots' needs and these birds are there unhappy. The shop is open every single day from morning to late evening and all days these birds are under electricity lights and living there this way more than five years. More than five  years so boring and and depressed life.

In my published article I wrote down about parrots' real needs and how much the shop slips up with that and how they do not give these points attention. These problems are not only in shops, but also many parrot keepers slip up with that and especially home sellers. This problem will grow much bigger over time if we do not have harder regulations in these cases. When people talk to shop keepers about the birds' condition then shop keepers answer is always the same: They are doing all trade business by law and all necessary conditions which are set up by law are allowed. It is all because supervision officials assess these conditions as normal and do not demand more. When some careful shop visitors have made claims about birds' conditions in shops, they get from the supervisor official a documented answer that all conditions are well and nothing to worry about. It sounds really like an answer from person who has no idea what is proper care and needs of a parrot. I must say that officials are not interested too deep in law and to find out more rules to work. We already have some strong law acts but they are not interpreted in extension act which regulates pet birds' keeping. This law act belongs for general to protect all animals and birds are also included there. But our officials undertake work only the subordinated act which is too primitive to regulate normal conditions for pet birds.

I do not like to use the terminology “Pet Bird,” but I must it say initially because our law is made to say that for simple understanding. I read about a big disagreement between two law acts which are used to regulate pet birds keeping in Estonia. Our law can be suitable at least to regulate some small species but our times are changed and here are brought in trade very large birds and for them we have no points to protect their rights. From point of birds we have here quite strong act called Animal Protection Act. Below this act is a subordinated act called Regulation of Pet Keeping Requirements – Section Pet Birds Keeping Requirements. And this last one contains only two paragraphs which are obviously insufficient to regulate parrot keeping conditions. Our supervision officials who must control animals and birds conditions in keeping base their work on this last regulation which is very simple to use for them because we do not have in law a more detailed description which concern birds' proper care in regulation on the basis of Animal Protection Act.

Animal Protection Act 3 section 2 says that parrot owner (shop keeper is also parrot owner by our law) must make available according to animal species and age (birds are also included in animals term by law) p. 1) proper amount of drinking water and food; p. 2) proper care; p. 3) proper microclimate, room or building which satisfies certain species specific needs to move; p. 4) other necessary needs which are essential for health and wellbeing. I started only from one paragraph and I see how much it is ignored in pet shops and also in officials' work as we do not have a broader explanation of what is proper food, proper care, proper room and necessary needs for essential health and wellbeing of a parrot. I am sad because officials must look deep in every species' needs but they do not, because they do only that work for which they have claim and what is not written letter by letter in law they do not fill it and do not use their emphaty ability when working with birds. Despite that,  in the law are strong points to fill. They do not deal with veterinarians' opinion and specialists abroad to know better parrots needs and use this information for learning how to protect parrots' rights here. This is a very big shortage and I am ashamed about that. That means that parrots are not so necessary to protect, from their point of view, as they assess conditions for normal within the law.

The same Act § 4 section 1 describes inadmissible actions in relation to animals (also birds) and in this list is written that leaving an animal in a helpless condition is also inadmissible action. In shop trade we see too much that sick birds are often not treated because it is cheaper to be left to die than order a vet visit. Shop keepers order vet services for expensive species but small birdies usually do not have this luck.

Paragraph § 5¹ says that animal (bird) keeper must check animal (bird) health and wellbeing regulary and they must bring a higher attention when animal is sick or reproducing or if there are important changes in the environment. Same point continues with the sentence: if animal (bird) keepers find out some deflection of normal behaviour then they must find out the deflection cause and without a delay take measures to improve the health and the well-being and condition. No attention to these points at all. No treating supporting actions during illness, no feeding if sick birds need. No elevated care for sick birds. It is all because we have no regulations what exactly they must to do in these cases. I guess vets are talking about different treating situations but shop keepers are ignoring it and officials are not able to assess these situations and do not take them to prosecute.

The Animal Protection Act § 5² section 4 says that in an animal (bird) room must be available all necessary and proper furnishing depending on each species' needs where they can exercise their normal species-specific behavior. There it says if the animal (also a bird) can not scratch, dig, hide, bathe, chew, and build a nest, the room must be equipped with all necessary materials for these normal behavior actions. The sad part is that in a shop, birds do not have bathing conditions and chewing materials, also not lot of perches to sit and climb. In some places they have also no hiding opportunity to take a rest from the all day electric light and shop visitors.

I took out some more important law points to compare with the real situation. I guess many countries have similar rules in law but in practice are mostly different situations stuck without developing for better knowledge about parrots. I see the cause because of absence of good education materials about parrots and for understanding their needs here in Estonia.

Next Regulation of Pet Birds Keeping Requirements on which mostly officials work are based, prescribes the next points in the first paragraph: 1) in cage must be at least two perches and more if there are more birds; 2) birds must have an opportunity to move and fly in cage; 3) birds must have an opportunity to bathe in water or sand; 4) birds must have in cage a grit. Next paragraph states the measurements of cages to keep pet birds and the cage for the smallest species must have the smallest side not shorter than 40cm. Usually shops sell cages with shorter sides length and people use these tiny cages. To be honest, some people are keeping bigger species in cages which are not suitable for budgies. In the same paraghraph in second section it said that birds must have an opportunity to climb on cage sides. That point affects all birds which are living in shops in glass cages and they have no opportunity to climb and they sit for years on shelled one sized perches and often have a bumble foot problems. Mostly law points are not followed and this Regulation for Pet Birds Keeping Requirements are so primitive and not what is suitable food for different species, what must be included in proper care, proper micro-climate, room or building which satisfies certain species specific needs to move and other necessary needs which are profoundly essential for health and well-being.

On what I am wonder that governments regulate strongly to protect wild parrot species but why they do not protect in the same way domesticated species in the law? Why do they allow people to treat them like furniture or like a shop commodity? These species all belongs to CITES II and some to CITES I Convention. They all have exactly the same rights to be protected from mistreatment. But the bad thing is that officials who must protect parrots' rights can not use the laws which are given them to work properly and profoundly. They have no ability to work a different way because they are not to used to doing that in a different way. In our law system, all pets in a dealership belong to law of property and our birds are treated like property things when owners want to make a deal with them. This sentence summarizes all pet businesses everywhere but it should not be this way.

After my article was published here, some time later I saw that a big pet shop who sells these large birds about whom I am talking made a discount and did an advert on the internet to let people know that they will sell out for all these species with a discount -40%. Discount they did soon after I rescued Carolyna because about that amazing story, our local newspaper was interested to publish. But the advert with discount they made after the newspaper published my article about pet birds' conditions in shops to quicken the process to sell these parrots out as they also understand that they have lived too long in shop conditions.

I have in my heart these two Green-Winged Macaws which are a pair. They should not be separated if they find a buyer who will take only one bird as the price is still quite high. For that Macaw pair being together is the meaning of life. They have been together very long time. The buyer must value this choice and buy them together. Especially the buyer must think can he keep such birds like Macaws? For me it is like keeping a tiger in an apartment. So wild and so unreachable a nature creation. But still there is a way to keep such kind of species if people want to learn how to do that and if they have necessary ability for that. In other cases we can not allow that conditions may be worse than in shop.

These birds have also rights to have their own place in the flock and proper care in someone's home. Some people are not supporting to buy parrots out from shop as it is supporting shop keepers to bring new ones. But I have my own opinion which touch every single bird´s heart and they all have rights to have a second chance to live normal life and not perish in a pet shop. They must not pay with their lives because of the Pet Trade Business' inevitable consequences. Some of the birds already died at shops because they did not have time to wait until somebody will buy them. We have no choice but to help these birds as only buy them out and hope that bringing attention to shortages in parrot keeping can bring a chance to change and to complete with more information our existing laws about parrots' needs. I have set my plans to work in this direction because all parrots who need help deserve a second chance to live and they deserve help. I do not know yet what destiny prepared for me in these plans but I hope that I can bring positive changes in these mistreated parrots' lives.

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