Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

A couple of events recently, both involving parrot sanctuaries, have got us thinking about the state of the parrot rescue movement these days. One event in the United States. One in Canada. In the United States, the Wings Over the Rainbow parrot sanctuary in Ohio closed when humane society officials seized more than 100 parrots from the sanctuary, alleging cruelty and neglect.

In Canada, one of the largest parrot sanctuaries in North America, the World Parrot Refuge, home to about 800 parrots, located in Coombs, British Columbia, came under attack from parrot advocates for allegedly having substandard facilities and care of its parrots.

We have not visited either facility, so we can't speak to the actual conditions on the ground. But involved in parrot rescue as we are, we have often wondered what our limits are. When does parrot rescue become parrot hoarding? The person who started Wings Over the Rainbow probably never expected to have more than 100 parrots in her care. We damn sure bet the people behind World Parrot Refuge never dreamed when they started they would eventually be caring for 800 parrots!

Parrot rescues and sanctuaries exist because people acquire companion parrots for all the wrong reasons. We won't get into a discussion here about whether parrots are even suitable to be pets. We've come to the conclusion that they aren't. Parrots are not like dogs and cats. Essentially they are wild animals. Wild animals with the intellectual development of a three to five year old human, and the emotional development of a two to three year old. Wild animals that can live fifty to eighty years, and even more! As parrot owners age, and as the economy flounders, people who once thought they could provide forever homes for their companion parrots are discovering otherwise.

So how is it that parrot rescue devolves into parrot hoarding? The urge and inclination is to attempt to save every parrot that needs a new home. How do those of us working in parrot rescue know our limits and know where to draw the line? For a devoted parrot person being able to say No can be the hardest thing in the world to do. Any person involved in parrot rescue needs to understand that we can't save every parrot that comes to us. Attempting to do so may jeopardize the parrots already in our care.

When we acquired our first parrot, our Greenwing macaw Roxanne, we only ever expected to get just the one. Next thing you know we adopted a female Blue and Gold macaw, Bubba Boy, that was bound for a parrot breeder. We still didn't know much about parrots and nothing about parrot breeders, but we had the feeling that placing a companion parrot with a breeder was not an ideal situation. Once we acquired a couple of parrots, then people started dropping parrots on our doorstep. Literally. Someone dropped a male Blue and Gold macaw, Aboo, in our care for a weekend, and never returned to pick him up. Later we learned the parrot was considered unmanageable. Then we ransomed a Hyacinth macaw, Princess Tara, from a deplorable bird store situation. And on. And on. And on. People begged us to take their parrots to find new homes, warning dire consequences for the parrots if we refused. So we did. And we started searching for new homes. Before we even realized it, we were running a parrot rescue.

Where to draw the line? Over the years our learning curve regarding parrots and parrot care has been steep. We've come to appreciate who the true parrot experts are, and the best sources of information for parrots and parrot care. Probably the most important thing we ever learned was that we did not hold a monopoly on parrot knowledge. We quickly realized that in finding new homes for companion parrots in need of new homes we had to trust that the people adopting the parrots would ultimately be able to care for them. Otherwise we'd never feel confident enough to release parrots to others for adoption. And we'd be stuck with a house crammed with parrots from basement to attic. That was a situation we clearly wanted to avoid. Becoming a parrot hoarder instead of a parrot rescuer!

Parrot rescue becomes parrot hoarding when the parrot rescuer starts to confuse the perfect homing situation for the best homing situation for the parrot. It appeared to us if a parrot rescuer became obsessed with finding the perfect forever home for the parrots in their care, the parrots would never be rehomed. By definition, the perfect forever home can never be found. Parrot sanctuaries that claim to provide a forever home for their parrots are living a myth. We can't begin to count the number of parrot sanctuaries that have closed their doors for various reasons over the past several years.

One last gripe. Parrot rescues and sanctuaries are seemingly obsessed with forms and procedures. Any lawyer will tell you that a contract is not worth the paper it's printed on if the contract is not enforced in court. And even then it's dubious. Sometimes it seems to us that parrot rescues and sanctuaries build paper walls around themselves as a means to buttress the myth of the perfect and keep the parrots in their care from ever being rehomed. Thus does parrot rescue devolve into parrot hoarding. Our suggestion? Focus more on finding suitable homes for rescued parrots and less on forms and procedures.

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