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BirdTricks Blog | Parrot Training

When You Should NOT Rescue A Bird In Need

If I am out shopping and I see a pet store, I am unable to walk past it. My heart melts when I look at puppies and kittens; and heaven help me, the birds, but I tend to walk away from even the best...

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When You Should NOT Rescue A Bird In Need

If I am out shopping and I see a pet store, I am unable to walk past it. My heart melts when I look at puppies and kittens; and heaven help me, the birds, but I tend to walk away from even the best pet stores with a sense of sadness. I worry about the futures of these small and innocent animals.

Every once in a while, you come upon a not-so-good pet store, and less frequently, a really bad one. When you’ve found on of these, you’ll know it right away, both by sight and smell.

The worst pet store I have ever experienced was one just outside of Chicago sometime in the mid 80s. The minute I walked in I was bowled over by the smell of urine. It made my eyes water and I had to pull my turtleneck up over my nose so I could breath. I wanted to walk in a little further to get a good description of the conditions because I already knew I would be making some phone calls when I got home.

There was a box of puppies about five feet inside the door that were covered in feces. Further in was a litter of kittens crawling around inside a filthy, old claw foot tub. Their urine had run out through the drain opening and was puddled on magazines beneath the tub. I heard a familiar sound coming from the back of the store.

I walked past dusty stacks of bagged foods and dingy dog toys to find a blue and gold macaw crammed into a cage too small to extend his wings. The last four inches of his tail was permanently bent upwards from hitting the cage floor. The diameter of his perch was too small and his nails were too long for him to find any comfort in the only place in his cage with room for him to stand upright.

The macaw had only a small water cup that was caked with grime around the sides. It looked as though someone just tossed new water in on top of the old everyday. There was an inch thick layer of sunflower seed shells littering the cage bottom mixed with a good month’s worth of accumulated dander. The air quality was better in the back of the store because a back door was left open. However, it was winter and far too cold for a bird.

I felt a huge lump rising up in my throat and I left in a hurry because I knew the tears were on their way. I went back to my car and sobbed. When I got home I made phone calls complaining to anyone who would listen. I doubt mine was the only call the authorities had received about this store – it was that bad. Within a year it was gone.

Times have changed. Animal cruelty laws have changed. But the penalties for breaking these laws generally amounts to nothing more the proverbial slap on the wrist. Animals in need die while waiting for the courts to process paper work. Sometimes we citizens have to push hard to move certain matters along.

On the Facebook page, a reader posted recently about how difficult it was for him to walk away from a mistreated bird in a pet shop. I sympathized completely. I think many, if not most, of us have been in this position before.

The thing is, walking away is exactly what we MUST do, as hard as it is. When we see an animal that is suffering in a retail situation, you have to think for a moment about the mind set of the store owner. Obviously animals are regarded merely as merchandise and the only loss he would feel should they die in his care is a financial one.

So one day you walk into this store, and see a young yellow naped amazon sitting in a small, dirty cage, with a bowl of seed hulls and water with a layer of scum forming over the top. The store has an entire wall stocked with toys, yet the amazon has none.You see some young children taunting the bird through the cage bars and none of the employees intervene. Finally, you’ve had enough and you whip out the credit card.

You go home with your rescued amazon, puffed up with pride for a good deed done. Another life saved! A couple of days later, in the cage that once housed your amazon is a young african grey. Inadvertently, and with the best of intentions at heart, you have helped this store thrive by giving it your business. When you save one bird by purchasing it, you just create an opening for another potential victim.

The only way to stop the cycle of abuse is to walk away empty handed. Yes, it is very hard and your heart will ache each and every time. But try to appease your conscience by making the appropriate phone calls to the animal welfare groups and by convincing others not to patronize this establishment through whatever means you can muster. A business cannot stay afloat without customers and their money. It is the only way to stop this cruelty.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.



  • I have to say there are also bad rescues that do nothing but make a living off of these poor birds also. They can make themselves look so good, but as a volunteer for 9 months, I learned so much about what a bad rescue actually does to birds. sadly.

    Barbara Cooley on

  • I did this with my budgie and I went back into the shop a few months later and it was completely transformed. I’m not sure whether they’d changed hands or what but I was surprised to say the least, and I wonder if my bird would’ve benefitted if I’d left him. I still think I did right by him but I do see the point made in this article, it’s very sad it had to be written in the first place. I’m going to keep my eye on the shop and of it goes bad again I’ll definitely be complaining to authorities.

    Roslyn on

  • I can’t even walk into pet stores any more. I just can’t do it. I shop for my birds’ toys and food online only. I had a traumatic experience with a gorgeous little GCC that was blue and beautiful and someone who didn’t know what they were doing took that baby and butchered his wings when they clipped them, just butchered them and cut them so far back I’m surprised he even survived it. We raised such a fuss over it with the store worker but I had my baby at home and I wasn’t sure if we could bring another bird into the house until I researched it a bit, so I went home that night and went back the VERY next day to get this bird, and he was gone. They claimed he was ‘sold’, but I don’t believe it for one minute. I think the employee told the boss and the boss got scared we were going to report them… I still cry sometimes when I think about what they might have done to that poor baby. His name was Walter and I am so sorry I couldn’t save him. I made my decision that day to NEVER give a pet store ANY of my money or my presence again.

    Thank you for this article. It’s so important. We really DO ‘vote’ with our dollars….

    Michelle Devon on

  • I have a bird shop in Miami Florida. Down the street is a flea market where they sell all types of animals. The condition of these animals is disgusting. Especially the birds. Small cages with old food and nasty water. I have had customers buy from them to save a bird only to bring it to me to properly take care of the parrot. I have, like you complained to the authorities but still they are allowed to operate. My customers have called to Florida Fish and Wild Life and nothing. So sad.

    patricia lyon on

  • I totally agree, make a fuss, call them out, ask to speak to someone in charge, follow up, ask your friends to help out. Do something!!

    Donna on

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