Programs and Services Rescue
There are an estimated 20 million companion birds living in U.S. homes. Research has indicated close to are kept in substandard conditions. Increasingly, we are seeing a growing population of parrots (4%) entering sheltering agencies. (American Pet Products Manufacturers Association).
Despite some of the inherent difficulties in properly caring for companion birds, birds and especially parrots, continue to be the fastest growing segment of the pet population. We receive inquiries daily from individuals around the country who feel “they must get rid of their birds”. In some circumstances we are able to provide on the spot or longer term counseling which has resulted in some of these birds keeping their homes. At other times we have had to provide a sanctuary for the unwanted parrot(s). Most times our rescue operations involve providing sanctuary for 1 or 2 pet parrots coming from a single location. However, sometimes our rescue operations have entailed the “emergency rescue” of dozens of abused and sick birds.
At the Foundation, “to rescue” is to bring a bird that is in an acute, life threatening situation or is in immediate need of assistance into a safe environment to be cared for by a knowledgeable and dedicated staff committed to improving the bird’s quality of life. If present quarantine is filled and an emergent situation requiring immediate intervention occurs, we have a small nationwide network of veterinarians and volunteers willing to assist.
The Foundation rescues:
- Birds found in deplorable conditions or in danger either by the general public, the Foundation itself, or by animal control officers.
- Birds owned by owners who, because they were unable to provide a safe environment for the birds, turned the birds over to the Foundation.
- Lost birds in need of capture and possible veterinary care, with efforts made to locate “owner” whenever possible.
Unfortunately, the future currently looks grim for the individuals who feel they can no longer keep their birds, for whatever reason, as well as for the unfortunate birds that are no longer wanted. The current availability of sanctuary space, resources, and knowledgeable caretakers is severely limited.
In 2006, TGF launched an ambitious project to establish a “Rescue Ranch” at TGF’s Aviary and Adoption Center. The intent of this program is to build a rescue facility capable of accepting 100 birds at any one time suffering from abuse and neglect or in need of emergency housing as a result of a major disaster. Thanks to grant support, this project is underway.
What To Do if you Suspect and Animal is Being Abused or Neglected
TGF does not have the authority to legally take action to investigate or intervene in suspected cases of animal abuse or neglect. But suspected instances of abuse or neglect are extremely important and we want to assist in any way we can. If you suspect a bird is being abused or neglected, or is in immediate danger, please file a complaint immediately.
Filing an animal cruelty or neglect complaint:
Individuals who have concerns about animals that are possibly suffering from cruelty or neglect, can file a complaint with their local law enforcement and/or Department of Agriculture. Complaints normally can be given via email, telephone or letter.
Complainants should provide their name, phone number and a detailed description of the issue, which includes the species of the animal(s), location, owner of the animals, etc.
Try to note the following:
- Is the animal’s life in immediate danger?
- Does the animal have food and water?
- Do they have photos?
- What is the physical condition of the animal?
- Is it resting on the cage bottom? Does it appear to be suffering? Can it access food and water? Has a veterinarian seen the bird?
- Has the caller mentioned these concerns to the owner, storekeeper, etc.?
- What are the conditions of the home, store, etc. like?
- Has more than one person tried to help the animal(s)? If so, ask caller to have them provide details via written correspondence.
The Gabriel Foundation would like to be kept appraised of the ongoing investigation details and is happy to be listed as a support resource in their investigation report.
If you build it, they will come
When drawing the original plans for the Aviary and Adoption in Elizabeth, CO, based on previous census of incoming birds, The Gabriel Foundation projected that it would take a minimum of two years for the 40,000 sq. ft. facility to reach full capacity of 350 birds, but 2006 had something else in store for us.
In March of 2006, TGF was asked to intervene in a large rescue involving 60 cockatiels, lovebirds, and other small species of parrots that were once part of a home breeding being operation. Well past breeding age, these senior psittacines had been confined to small, wire breeding cages in a dark basement for twenty years. Their cages did not have perches or toys of any kind and they had no access to natural light and fresh air.
No sooner did these birds arrive, then TGF was asked to rescue 31 birds from a hoarding situation where the birds were living in squalid conditions. The floor was covered in mounds of feces, rodent droppings, old seed hulls, and decaying food. All of this combined with the dander and dust to create an acrid environment that has permanently affected some of the birds’ health.
Adding nearly 100 largely un-adoptable birds into the flock in two months stretched the resources of The Gabriel Foundation. Thanks to an outpouring of support, TGF was able to raise over $16,000 to cover the medical expenses of these birds and we have you to thank. But if our projections are correct, this is just the beginning of a flood of birds coming into TGF’s rescue program.
The US, we feel, is at an advanced stage of the aging population of breeder birds and we foresee a dire situation for birds faced with the possibility of being placed on the scrap heap like rusting cars. TGF is making plans right now for a fourth building that will allow us to dedicate a building to a “Rescue Ranch” for unwanted, abused, neglected, and discarded birds. Thanks to grant support, this project is already in the works with the goal of being able to accept up to 100 new birds into Rescue Ranch on any given day.
The First Rescues
Our first large rescue took place in late February of 1996. It involved the rescue of 24 macaws and one Amazon parrot whose owner had abandoned them in an outdoor dog kennel in the middle of winter. With the assistance of local animal control officers and guidance from the Pitkin County District Attorney, The Gabriel Foundation® was essentially able to remove these birds from their horrific, and potentially life threatening circumstances and bring them to the Foundation where they were given proper medical care, food, housing and protection. Some of the birds suffered from extreme frostbite that permanently damaged the feather follicles. One of TGF’s most recognized blue and gold macaws, Shadrack, is one of the birds that survived this horrific ordeal.
While we generally do not support the idea of “purchasing” birds for ransom, in late February 1997, we felt compelled to undertake a very large “ransom rescue.” Through the generosity of one of our donors who provided the funding, we were able to acquire 52 parrots of various species that were being kept under desperate and deplorable conditions. We decided a “ransom” was necessary to remove these parrots from a horrific breeder situation after it was determined that these animals were in jeopardy of starving to death.
In February 1998, the Foundation rescued a large group of birds from another breeding facility in Texas when the owner of the aviary contracted a fatal illness. The family that was desperate to rid themselves of their enormous bird inventory were quick to sell off the “cream of the crop” but they were then left with many birds that had physical abnormalities and disabilities as well as chronic medical problems that meant they could not be easily be sold or placed. We stepped in and offered help for 37 birds, some of which were blind or crippled (i.e. splay legs, improperly treated fractures, etc, toes bitten off by rats) while others had papillomas or were severely feather plucked. We believe many of these birds were companion animals at one time in their life and may have been left with the aviary owner (who had previously operated a pet store) when the owners were no longer willing or able to care for their companion parrots. While these birds were given to us by the breeder’s family, we had to pay the cost of airline transport to Denver, Colorado as well as pick them up and transport costs to our aviary.
In June 1998 we rescued a group of 43 small birds (parakeets, cockatiels, and lovebirds, plus three Amazons) that had essentially been abandoned by their breeder-owners.
Stories like these just emphasize the overwhelming need to provide continuing education and information to the public, the veterinary community, and the avicultural industry in relation to how to properly provide for these highly intelligent, long-lived creatures. Compounding this challenge is the fact that there are far too few facilities that can provide truly appropriate or model standards of care for the number of companion parrots being “dumped” into the market.
You can take part in this mission by either getting involved as a “foster home” or by making a tax deductible donation, either in cash or, if you prefer, of other items of value which we can sell. Learn how you can help.
A Cheap Bird’s Plea
by Joyce Glass
What is it that my life is worth
How much will you pay
To what extent would you go
If I get ill today?
I know I’m not an expensive bird
My cost is fairly cheap
But what is the price you put on life
For something that you keep?
My wings still spread out the same
My heart still has a beat
So why is it that my cousins
Are the ones you hold so sweet?
I cannot help that I was born
Without a golden egg
Will you still take care of me
Or make me plead and beg?
I rely on you to help me
As I can’t do it for myself
Will you take the steps needed
Or just put me on the shelf?
So when you walk by me
Please look me in the eye
If it would come down to it
Would I live or die?