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How To Create An Effective Rescue Policy For Your Parrot Sanctuary

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If your sanctuary is known in the community as a place where rescued parrots are treated compassionately and with dignity, it’s inevitable that you will receive numerous requests for rescuing or rehoming parrots in need (including from those who aren’t necessarily fully aware of the challenges involved in rescue). At times, some sanctuaries report receiving two or more rescue requests a day!

While, like us, you would undoubtedly like to see all parrots treated with compassion and dignity, it’s unfeasible for one sanctuary to give a lifetime of care to every parrot in need. As such, it’s important to reflect on your sanctuary’s mission and think carefully about the scenarios in which you’d consider taking in a parrot if you haven’t already. Maybe you’ve had ideas but haven’t been entirely consistent in your approach to rescue. Creating a written policy can help clarify many aspects of your organization, its scope, and ultimate mission.

Ask yourself:

By crafting an accessible policy explaining your criteria for taking in a parrot, you can also help the public understand your side of the story. A detailed explanation of why your policies are in place can lessen any backlash you might receive for refusing what seems like a reasonable request from a concerned community member. Making your policy easy to find will also cut down on the number of unrealistic propositions sent to your team in the first place!

Scenarios To Consider Crafting Policy For

Paying For Rescues

Would your organization pay to save lives (or accept a parrot who was paid for by a sympathetic community member), such as from a breeder or pet store? Some organizations endorse this practice, considering the individual life being saved as ultimately more valuable than the cost; other organizations say no to all pay-for-rescue scenarios, believing that a paid rescue would not incentivize reduced parrot exploitation from the seller.  Paying an adoption fee for parrots coming from an animal shelter or rescue organization is typically considered different from pay-for-rescue as the money does not go to an industry that commodifies parrots.

Our Two Cents
Although an individual parrot may be spared through their purchase, either by an organization or a compassionate community member, The Open Sanctuary Project does not advocate for this practice generally. “Pay-for-rescue” often perpetuates the cycle of parrot exploitation by directly funding its continuance if breeders are given money without a guarantee that they will stop breeding additional parrots. There are countless parrots in need of sanctuary who do not need to be purchased. Of course, there will always be situations where money may come into play during a rescue that are more nuanced, and we would never fault a sanctuary for making the judgment call to save a life for some sort of financial exchange if deemed necessary.

Rescue Priorities And Policies

As a parrot sanctuary, most of the individuals you rescue will likely be from home situations where they can no longer be cared for. Some sanctuaries may choose to prioritize rescuing parrots from situations where their guardian becomes ill or passes away over parrots from home where a guardian has decided that can’t handle the responsibility. The idea there is to ensure the public learns that parrots should not be treated as disposable commodities. In these cases, sanctuaries will often work with those individuals to assist them in rehoming the parrot to a better home. While many sanctuaries will rescue parrots equally from both situations because the individual animal needs to be cared for regardless of how they got into their current situation. 

Lifetime Care Commitment Policies

Some sanctuaries require lifetime care commitments from guardians for some or all parrots they take into the sanctuary. This can be approached two different ways:

In one method, a guardian simply feels they can no longer provide care and would like to surrender the parrot as soon as possible, either providing annual support or a lump sum. The sanctuary will need to be sure they have a notarized contract for annual support to protect them from someone abandoning the new resident and placing the burden of care costs on the sanctuary’s shoulders.

The other method is a long-term consideration for guardians of in-home captive parrots. This involves estate planning to ensure there is a place the parrot can go to that will provide for their needs for the rest of the parrot’s lifetime. If a sanctuary is open to providing this service, they will need to consider the average lifetime care costs of individual species, break it down annually,  and have set lifetime care fees in place, depending on the age and health of the individual parrot at the time of the guardians death. Some sanctuaries may be willing to negotiate these fees, while others may choose to keep them firm. Sanctuary will need to develop their own document to obtain all the vital information of the history, health, age, disposition, living environment, as well as require all pertinent legal documentation in the event of the guardian’s death to ensure their wishes are respected, the sanctuary will receive the agreed upon sum, and that they have legal rights to take in the parrot. The sanctuary will need to clearly communicate what is needed to “reserve” a space at the sanctuary. Here is a sanctuary example of an information packet covering a lifetime care program.  

Rescue With The Intent Of Adopting Out

Would your organization consider taking in parrots with the intent to place them into loving forever homes as soon as they are healthy? If your sanctuary has appropriate quarantine space and has the resources to responsibly care for the newly rescued parrots short term, you may decide to say yes to certain parrots even if your sanctuary is technically at capacity.  This scenario allows your organization to save more parrots in need without the additional cost and resources required to provide lifelong care to them.  

If your organization decides to rescue with the intent of adopting out, you must have a plan in place for the unexpected. What will you do if the newly rescued parrot(s) has serious health or other issues that make them more difficult or inappropriate to adopt out? What if the home you had lined up falls through? Ultimately, the parrots who come onto your sanctuary grounds are relying upon you for their health and well-being while living under your roof, however long that ends up being. It’s important to keep this responsibility in mind when bringing in parrots under this circumstance.

Species Outside Of Your Organization’s Mission

Would your organization accept avian or other species outside of your organization’s original scope? Would your parrot sanctuary accept a duck or a tortoise? In some cases, parrot sanctuaries focus on a particular species and do not take in other species due to their unique needs. You may see a parrot sanctuary that does not take in cockatoos or a sanctuary that specializes in only cockatoos. All parrot species are not the same. They all have unique needs that require particular care. Would your sanctuary consider the above species or parrot species outside of their mission? Why or why not?

Parrots With Special Care Requirements

Would your organization be willing and able to accept a parrot who had special care requirements such as a chronic illness or injury that requires a daily checkup? If so, under which circumstances? What if they were traumatized (as many are) and could not safely live with your existing residents? Are you equipped to provide care for wild-caught individuals? Saying no in these situations can be especially heartbreaking, but it’s always important to weigh the sustainability of your sanctuary and the needs of your existing residents when considering taking in a parrot who has a host of challenges. Additionally, you must determine if you are able to provide the level of care they need. Saying yes and then falling short of that necessary care creates a sad situation for everyone.

Parrots Of Unknown Origin

Would your organization accept a parrot whose origin was unknown or uncertain, such as a parrot found wandering an urban area? Why or why not?

Parrots Who Could Potentially Live Well Elsewhere

Would your organization accept parrots who another sanctuary or community member may be willing to accept? Some sanctuaries will take in any parrots looking for a home who fit the rest of their policies; other sanctuaries are only willing to accept parrots who are trapped in the most dire of situations.

Writing A Policy For The Public

Once you’ve determined your internal policy for rescues, you can choose whether you’d like to develop a clear, concise document for the public to understand your position. If you do write a public-facing rescue policy, make sure to put your compassion on display here, even if some readers may find refusing needy parrots a less-than-compassionate endeavor. It’s always hard to say no to a living being in need, but it’s important to emphasize the risk to your sanctuary and your mission that comes with stretching your resources too thin. If you can, offer explanations and alternative solutions for each “no” scenario. 

Not all sanctuaries have public-facing rescue policies, believing it’s better to leave room for possible rescue exceptions to the policy rather than drawing strict lines in the sand that may have to be walked back. It’s up to your sanctuary whether you’d like to go public with your policy or not, but you should have an internal policy developed in either case!

SOURCES:

How To Start A Farm Animal Sanctuary | Farm Sanctuary

Starting a Non-Profit Bird Rescue | Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue

Updated on November 10, 2020

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