Life runs fast and mean in this town.
-Hunter S. Thompson
Things in the world of Avicuture have gotten a little heated lately. Due to some events that have all happened at about the same time, things got weird and the weird turned pro. I’m still getting back to full speed from my concussion, so Best Friends Animal Society Parrot Caregiver, Bonnie Grafton took the helm here. She has a few things to say.
First off, let me just say that I absolutely love what Best Friends Animal Society tries to do every day and I find their work with Parrots extraordinary. Parrot Garden Manager Jacque Johnson has been at the helm for a few years and has worked tirelessly to promote the Parrot Garden as well as improving and expanding their facilities.
Bonnie Grafton established a parrot supply store in 2009 in Port Charlotte, Florida. Almost a year and a half ago, she joined me, Janet Holt Hilton and Kelly Moore Parsley in Kanab, Utah at Best Friends Animal Society to volunteer.
Well, as it sometimes happens, Best Friends captured her heart and soul and she moved out there last year with her husband Ed to work there. Her business partner Rebecca Stockslager and her daughter currently run the store, now named “Noah’s Bird Nest.”
Photo courtesy of Best Friends
Bonnie is still working in Kanab as a Parrot Caregiver to Best Friends flock at the Parrot Garden. Bonnie is passionate about the work she does and believes strongly in adoption. Recently, she wrote up this piece expressing her feelings about the recent temperature in Aviculture. Here are Bonnie’s thoughts:
*First off, let me put out the necessary disclaimer. These are MY words and may or may not reflect the thoughts of my employer, my boss, my coworkers, my husband, my friends or the mailman. These are my thoughts and ideas only.*
Before I even had expressed my thoughts much less written this, someone told me that I run the risk of being attacked by people on the internet and other people within the industry.
That comment alone nearly broke my heart. This is what we have come to already. Anyone that has an opinion that might even *suggest* that the factions in the avian world could get along or find common ground will be crucified.
We agree on one thing. We love birds. I’m pretty sure that people who work with dogs love dogs. People who work with children love children. You get the drift. We love birds and the majority of us want is what’s best for them. But what does that MEAN?
There are extremists in every cause, every culture, every family. One group of extremists will say birds belong in the wild. Yes, absolutely they do, but that is not an option. It is a romantic and unrealistic view and not feasible for a multitude of reasons.
The next group will tell you birds don’t belong in homes. Again, agreed, but we should have figured that out several thousand years ago. The keeping of parrots has evolved tremendously over the last thirty years or so and we continue to learn. There are untold numbers of people that are successfully living with healthy, happy parrots so I believe we are doing a better job of providing for them.
Do they belong in homes? No. Can they be successful in homes? Absolutely. Is everyone cut out for it? Of course not. By the same token not every one is cut out for a human child…or a dog…or anything else that would require a person to be responsible for something other than themselves. Responsibility…what we have created we are responsible for. Does anyone realize that there are many, many former breeders that are now actively involved in rehoming and rescue?? I’m certain that you will find the same in any animal welfare field. It happens…the realization that you cannot guarantee the safety of what you have created for their lifetime.
Photo Courtesy of Best Friends Parrot Garden
When you get the calls and you have a heart, you take them in. There are plenty of people out there that do this and plenty of them are not rescues at all. They just love birds. At least, I hope that is what the motive is.
Rescues and rehoming facilities are full. Yes, I absolutely believe that. I am involved with far too many of you to ever feel otherwise. But..let’s explore why they are full. Do they adopt? If not, why not? If they have made the choice to provide a lifetime for the parrots in their care, my hope is that they would have a plan for the next 80-100 years and enough sustainability to make that happen. Rescues and rehoming facilities with successful programs are getting parrots into homes at a fair rate. Are there more coming in than going out? It’s likely, but I personally don’t know for sure.
I do believe we are seeing a spike in awareness brought on by forums like social media. I attribute our current numbers to the massive breeding that happened in the 80’s and early 90’s. I feel safe in saying they are not breeding parrots in the numbers they were in the past.
Will there always be homeless parrots? Sadly, yes. I know that. We need only to look at dog and cat advocates to confirm this. Do I think we should still be breeding parrots for homes? Of course not, but it is my belief. There are those that believe otherwise and while I do not agree, I respect their right to choose for themselves. I’ve had plenty of people knock on my door over the years attempting to convert me to some religion, it hasn’t worked yet. Doesn’t stop them from coming. I will continue to “practice my religion” and if I can convert someone to my way of thinking, so much the better.
I try to see the good in people. I understand that there are people in this industry that are here for the money or even the fame (yea,right), but I will continue to believe that this is a very small percentage. I’m sure the dog and cat folks could tell us plenty about that and compared to them, I would imagine our numbers are still pretty small.
We’ve got a long way to go before anyone will pay attention to us, but imagine how the people who advocate for our farm animals feel. I would love to see standards of care established. I’ve said that for years. I’d love to see breeders, rescues and sanctuaries regulated and responsible.
I don’t know if that is the answer. I don’t know how to get there. It occurs to me that no one does.
That’s how I feel. Period. I’m realistic enough to understand that could be a long way off. That doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to try.
We continue to find homes for parrots. We continue to learn and educate. We continue to increase awareness. We continue to network and support organizations we believe in. We continue to believe that we can create change.
In the meantime, I am going to help parrots. While the road that I follow may not be the same road you choose, I wish you well.
November 21, 2013 at 10:26 am
Well said, as always.
November 21, 2013 at 10:38 am
Such a balanced perspective after the things I have been reading this week.
November 21, 2013 at 10:55 am
Thanks Bonnie for saying things that many of us have been saying for years, only to be yelled down by the extremists. Realistic and true.
November 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm
I’ve learned from the best, Bonnie and thank you.
November 21, 2013 at 11:44 am
All we can do is keeping marching forward, caring for our birds, educating people, and trying to place birds in loving appropriate homes. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Oh…and for the record. I’m the one that told Bonnie I was afraid she would be attacked for her words. Why did I say that? Because I’ve watched some of the crazy reactions to bird related things in the past year. How we have to scrutinize each picture we post, to make sure there isn’t something there that would cause people to comment negatively. It makes me tired that we have to be so careful about everything we say and do.
November 21, 2013 at 12:03 pm
I very much enjoyed reading this, and I think it is a great article because it covers all of the issues without condemning anyone, I think there are many opinions out there, but I like that this one covers education and information about parrots in a positive manner.
November 21, 2013 at 12:29 pm
Julie, I think Bonnie did a fabulous job. And she spoke from the heart.
November 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm
November 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm
LOVED the article. I can’t believe that their is no “standard of care” written for birds. Let me start: 1. Fresh water every day. NOW, add YOUR standard……
November 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm
Bonnie, thank you for writing such a wonderful article.
November 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm
Thank you Bonnie and all care givers. You rock!
November 21, 2013 at 7:01 pm
Totally agree, thanks for all you do. If they attack you let me know, no one hurts my loved ones.
November 21, 2013 at 8:44 pm
Wow, great words. I’m a “doggie”. That means I am a dog owner and lover, I call you folks “birdies” as you are bird owners and lovers. Don’t get me started on what I call cat people, just kidding I call them “cat people”. My only experience with birds is through my friendship with Patricia, before that I never even thought about birds. But between PS and my friend Yvonne I think about them often and I always try to share and advocate. I wish breeding of all “pets” would stop for 10 years. Just 10 years. There are so many pets out there needing homes, this would make a huge dent in that. But that’s my dream. I am not on any “dog forums” or the like, but I do occasionally visit the “bird pages” and I cringe at some of them. So much fighting about who is doing what right and who isn’t. Let’s remove the “HUMAN’ ego from all of this and just do what is right for the pets. I have to share a story that touched my heart this year however, and gives me hope. In 2007 I visited Maui. There were stray cats EVERYWHERE. We were told in no uncertain terms, DO NOT FEED THE CATS, DO NOT INTERACT WITH THE CATS. They are basically a pain in Hawaii’s “ass” and they wanted everyone to ignore them. I returned to Maui this year…and the good news is, NOW they feed all the strays. Animal groups visit the all the areas where stray cats are, they feed them, and if possible they capture them, neuter them, and return them to where they got them. You know the “beer cart girl” on the golf courses? Not only does she provide booze to the golfers, but she also carries cat food to the stray cats. Love that progress. I hope we evolve in our treatment of animals, this was a good sign to me! Sorry I was so long winded LOL
November 22, 2013 at 10:21 am
Sandy~ Thank you for such a wonderful,hopeful story. We can change the world, I will never stop believing that 🙂
November 23, 2013 at 3:53 am
I can’t say what I wanted to say any better than Sandy did. You wrote this with the same class that PS always does [btw, I do hope she will be okay very soon].
The only thing I want to add is a heartfelt thank you to every single one of the staff at Best Friends [Parrot Garden] in Kanab [ and it is my understanding that this is the same place that so lovingly rehabilitated and rehomed most of the dogs that were confiscated from Michael Vick,
I know there is still so much education that needs to reach the general public regarding the plight of so many parrots. But it really saddens me that it does seem to be the EGO of most rescues that pluck each others feathers out <—[sarcasm injected here] And sadly as long as that goes on without them reaching out to each other and working as a TEAM I see the parrot future as looking very grim. The name calling and vicious attacks on each other is what mostly keeps me out of the forums and the few times I do take a peek into one of them the situation seems to have gotten worse than before [hubby and I do volunteer at a rescue whenever we can and it breaks my heart when I see it being blasted by "haters" that have never visited [even though there is an open door policy to come and drop in ANY TIME ] Not only do I feel personally attacked-but it doesn't shine a light on any of the volunteers that work so hard and invest not only their time but also their hearts and souls into making sure that not a single bird suffers or stays locked up in a cage. Many of the parrots are the little helpers that love riding along on the food cart and help the volunteers take care of their flock mates while it is also a great way for them to be socialized with humans. Of course we try to heal their hearts and souls, but I think they take it upon themselves to do the same for any of us that might need it. Blessed Be everyone that devotes a part of their life to the parrots and now we need to learn to reach out to each other and support each other. I have been trying to stay optimistic for many years now [but I am slowly being drained of it ……one word at a time , one hater at a time:/
Thank you again for this greatly written piece,
November 23, 2013 at 8:51 pm
Thank you for your kind words. I know that there are plenty of rational thinking people out there that are afraid to speak or emotionally worn down to the point that they,like you,feel drained.
It bothers me tremendously that there is an impact on volunteers. I guess I hadn’t looked at it from that perspective. You are the backbone of what we all do. We could not do this without you, I hope you know that. And I’m sorry.
What your words did do is strengthen my resolve to not sit quietly by. I hope that in the coming days we will see the better side of the avian world.
Brightest Blessings and Thank you for the work that you do for parrots,
April 30, 2014 at 8:56 pm
Wow, I had no idea all this was going on out there. Here I am an old lady with two little conures that I love with all my heart, trying to do my best for them and feeling very inadequate. I live ina small town in south Texas – no avian vet – no bird club well all I have is the internet. That helps some. But I worry——–