What happens to a bird once it’s placed into a sanctuary?
A better question might be “What happens to the person who relinquished the bird once the bird has been placed in a sanctuary?”
First let’s define “rescue” compared to “sanctuary” as we have come to know these institutions in the avian community.
Rescue: A place of temporary shelter until the bird can be found a new home. Sometimes these are perfectly well-adjusted and beautifully feathered birds, but usually not. Sometimes these are hard to care for birds, sick, ill or diseased birds, abused or neglected or just plain old and disabled birds. Sometimes they are just no longer wanted. Sometimes the previous caregiver simply can no longer care for the bird due to extreme lifestyle changes or hardship. If any given bird is ill or comes with a less than pleasant attitude it is sometimes rehabilitated physically, mentally, emotionally and behaviorally if possible before being adopted into a new home. All of this requires a great amount of time, patience and financial responsibility on the part of the rescue facility if the rehabilitation is done thoroughly and correctly. This is why donations are constantly asked for and why adoption fees can be quite expensive if adoption is from a well-known and highly recommended rescue with a well-earned reputation.
Sanctuary: A place of permanent residence for birds who can no longer be cared for by the previous caregiver. Sometimes these are hard to care for birds, sick, ill or diseased birds, abuse or neglected or just plain old and disabled birds. Sometimes they are just no longer wanted. Sometimes the previous caregiver simply can no longer care for the bird due to extreme lifestyle changes or hardship. There are many, many reasons a bird ends up in a permanent care facility. Unlike a “rescue” these birds will never be adopted out to a new home due to their unique situation, be it long term illness, disease or disability or simply because the previous caregiver wanted their bird to be guaranteed a permanent home for the remainder of the bird’s life.
Unfortunately there are not many sanctuaries in ratio to rescues due to the fact that financial assistance and the sheer requirement for land and space along with proper zoning is so hard to come by. In addition most people who relinquish their birds do not continue to financially, materially and physically support the sanctuary in which their bird now resides. This poses a huge problem for sanctuaries that bear the burden of ongoing physical work, housing, food and veterinarian bills. If the sanctuary does not adopt birds out to other homes where do the funds come from to help support the sanctuary other than donations? Let’s face it, donations are hard to come by when the “competition” for donations is a dog-eat-dog world.
Personally I believe the responsibility needs to be placed squarely upon the person relinquishing the bird. While some people relinquish due to financial hardship, this is not true of all relinquishment cases. For those relinquishing for any reason other than financial hardship responsibility needs to be an ongoing action. If financial hardship can be verified, then that is a completely different situation; if not then a contract needs to be signed accepting financial responsibility for their bird as long as the bird is in the care of the sanctuary. After all, an outside party has been asked to accept the responsibility of housing, feeding and ensuring that their bird’s medical care is looked over on a daily basis for the remainder of their bird’s life.
Enter in a whole new kind of relationship between the long term care facility (sanctuary) and the person doing the relinquishment – one like we have never experienced before. A relationship of mutual understanding that while, yes people do fall into situations of hardship requiring help and support, no one can expect another party to accept their responsibility without help, support and compensation for doing so. In human healthcare institutions all of us have to pay for health and medical long term care; it’s now time, all of us having so many pets that we understand we have to pay for our pets’ long term care when we cannot do it ourselves.
Fortunately Providence Exotic Bird Sanctuary recently had two former caregivers who stepped up to the plate of responsibility. They continue to provide financial help for the birds they had to relinquish due to their own, personal health crisis. They did not relinquish because they were tired of their birds, or because they didn’t care. In fact both of these wonderful caregivers continue to ask about the birds they relinquished! This is indeed how relinquishments should be! Plus these two former caregivers have given financially each in their own way. One gave a one-time gift enough to cover costs for one entire year for their special needs bird! Hopefully at the end of that year they will realize their bird needs further financial support. The other continues to purchase foods for the special needs bird they relinquished. No, I am not mentioning names. My promise has always been to the people who relinquish to our sanctuary, or one of our affiliate sanctuaries to keep their information private; if they want to release their information they get to make that choice.
In addition to ongoing financial support I believe there should also be a one-time acceptance/placement fee. This ensures the person doing the relinquishing that the sanctuary is very serious about what is happening in the transaction. In other words, the sanctuary is NOT buying a bird, nor will the bird be sold. In fact the person relinquishing is paying the sanctuary to permanently care for their bird in a long term, residential situation signing a binding contract to do so. And by the way, the contract needs to state that if for any reason the sanctuary can no longer care for the bird the person relinquishing has first option to take the bird back. If they cannot take their bird back, then the sanctuary has the right to find a new home for the bird. (Each sanctuary needs to decide on the details of this portion of the contract and each person who relinquishes needs to read and understand this portion very well before signing the contract.)
In the end contracts between the two parties are a must and need to be very detailed and thorough regarding the responsibilities of both parties, the sanctuary and the person relinquishing. Every detail from the initial relinquishment, isolation during illness in the sanctuary, housing, feeding, time out of the cage, exercise, weekly/monthly bathing, wing-clipping, medical care, financial support, transportation in case of emergencies, adoption (or not), ensured of no breeding/trading of birds in facility, if the person relinquishing is allowed to ever take re-possession of their bird, what happens to the bird if the sanctuary closes, what is done with the bird if it dies (necropsy, burial/cremation) and more. If the person relinquishing desires very detailed care of their bird they must be willing to pay a higher support fee per month for each advanced service due to the fact that each service requires the time and effort of the sanctuary caregiver(s). Remember, this is a long term healthcare facility similar to a human healthcare facility. While it is commonly understood that a human would require basic services, animals may not always receive as much care. If a person wants to ensure their pet, whom they are now relinquishing receives the level of care a human would receive they need to be prepared to help pay for that level of care.
The bottom line is this, we cannot continue to be a “throw-away” society believing someone else will come along and pick up our responsibilities where we left off. We see every day where dogs and cats are euthanized because there are not enough caring homes, rescues or long term no-kill care facilities to care for them. Let’s not let this become the case with exotic companion birds. As an avian community let’s be proactive now before unwanted birds becomes an epidemic.
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