I thought I would start with a real zinger of an issue – and at what I consider the beginning. There can be no further issues to discuss without myself having first owned an exotic pet, in this case, parrots.
I feel that here I should define what I’m calling exotic. Consulting the wide world of the Internet, an exotic is ‘loosely defined as any [non-traditional] pet that is not a dog, cat, fish or horse.’
I am obviously pro-exotics.
That being said, I feel that not all animals are appropriate pets. Big cats, raccoons, bears, wolves and wolf-hybrids, monkeys, deer… Animals that have not only special care requirements, but massive space requirements to be happy and healthy.
I have heard before that I am a hypocrite for keeping parrots and yet claiming that a bear or wolf is not a suitable pet.
Yet my parrots do not suffer – not as a big cat does, when kept in an electrified pen only a fraction of the size it needs. It is true that my birds do not roam the wild as nature intended. But their cages are their sanctuaries – they go there when they want quiet or food. If things get too noisy, the cage is a place of comfort. There, they sleep. They have the entire house to roam and explore, and in the cage they have mental stimulation in the form of toys and foraging. Best of all, there are no predators waiting to snap them up.
When it comes to companion parrots, we humans are their flock. While, yes, they do spend time in their cages (for their own safety) while we’re away, they should generally spend more time out than in.
I am also an advocate of giving captive birds choice. This makes them feel empowered – and a bird feeling that way typically feels the need to bite less. No, again, it’s not like in the wild… But it’s the next best thing. In line with providing choice, I also refuse to clip my birds’ wings. They love the freedom of flight, and I find nothing more beautiful. If I didn’t want a flighted parrot, I would own a dog instead – and I think that generally, that should be the attitude.
Besides all of that, even if you believe that such creatures should never be pets, these birds have been raised in a captive situation. They do not know how to survive in the wild and would die if released there. Parrots bred by people need us.
Argue that how you want, the breeding industry is not stopping – not unless everyone out there decides to adopt and not buy. However wonderful that would be, it simply isn’t happening. These human-raised birds exist and can’t go anywhere other than to a loving, human family that does their best to provide.
Would you rather destroy a bird, than see it placed into a loving home with people?
When it comes to exotics, my general rule is this: if it can kill or maim you, or if it wants to eat you (or any combination therein), you shouldn’t keep it as a pet.
My parrots never wanted to kill anyone. Most can’t put your life in danger if they do bite – and a good owner will invest in training to help their birds learn how to behave in a human home. Similarly, snakes have no interest in harming a human.
When it comes to owning reptiles, though, I figure that owners go into it understanding that their pets are potential carriers for salmonella, and act accordingly by washing their hands carefully and keeping sanitary living quarters for their pets. They understand the care requirements, and provide them.
I might add that nearly all owners, of all animals, do this.
The argument against exotic pets is this:
‘When in the hands of private individuals, the animals themselves suffer. These animals do not adjust well to a captive environment, for they require special care, housing, diet and maintenance that the average person cannot provide. As a result, individuals possessing exotic animals often attempt to change the nature of the animal rather than the nature of the care provided.
Many possessors realize they can no longer care for an exotic “pet” so they turn to zoos and other institutions such as sanctuaries to take over the responsibility. However, all the zoos and accredited institutions could not possibly accommodate the number of unwanted exotic “pets.” As a result, the majority of these animals are either euthanized, abandoned, or doomed to live in deplorable conditions.’
Read on here.
Some sites, like the BC SPCA, here, also state that (for instance) large birds – like macaws – are more than capable of outliving their owners. They say that ‘when the novelty wears off and the reality of the high care costs, lack of interaction… and overall care responsibilities become unmanageable, the animals are either abandoned or surrendered to a shelter or refuge.’
I counter that with: educate.
Tell people. Teach them that the stunning red parrot in the shop window is Trouble with a capital T. That he has a personality and a sense of mischievousness That if you train him and respect him, he will be a valuable member of your family – and that if you don’t, he will certainly not respect you.
Educate the public and let them know that parrots – all of them, large and small – have expansive care requirements, and get rid of the notion that they are easy and simplistic pets.
Another thing I felt needed addressing: the BC SPCA also states, shortly after the previous quote, that ‘unlike companion animals that create long-term reciprocal relationships between guardian and animal, there are many compelling reasons for not keeping exotic animals.’
I have to point out that – while perhaps not true with other exotics, I don’t know – I hold a very strong bond with each of my birds. Parrots do bond with their caretakers – it’s instinct.
I think there is nothing wrong with the dedicated parrot owner who gives his pet the best of everything – who does his research, and keeps up with the parrot world, doing what he can to make sure his companion leads the best (and healthiest) life.
I would say also that there is no harm in entering the exotic world of parrots or reptiles, so long as you understand your source.
If you absolutely must buy a baby, check your breeder’s credentials, and ensure that you’re not involving yourself in a scheme where wild birds are caught and passed off as captive.
But most importantly, consider adoption. There are so many homeless pets in rescues who would appreciate your love.
Once you have your new bird, put time into research – and consider it part of the regular care. Things change all the time in the bird world, from what’s considered good bedding, to the best nutrition.
We pet owners love our animals. We care for them as best we can. And if someone passed a law saying that I needed to obtain a license to keep my parrots – I would grumble, a bit, but I would do it.
I might even consider it fair. After all, it would help prevent the casual owners who impulse buy a parrot.
What are your thoughts?