When looking for places to relocate pets in situations with owners temporarily or permanently unable to care for them, people may typically think of dogs and cats. However, there are other animals, such as exotic birds, that are affected by such situations. One organization, the Southern Nevada Parrot Education, Rescue and Rehoming Society, aims to tackle the issues involving rehoming these birds.
Madeleine Franco, executive director of the group, said the economy has played a role in the number of birds for which she attempts to give new homes.
"We've been getting an influx of birds, not only because of aging but because people are losing their homes," Franco said. "As the foreclosure crisis is getting more serious, pets get the short end of the perch, so to speak. That's always the problem."
The society, initially founded as a bird club, gained nonprofit status and switched its focus to bird rescue and rehoming in 2007. Since then, Franco said she and other volunteers have placed more than 100 birds in homes.
Franco said though the organization focuses on rescuing, rehoming has become its largest aspect. Several difficulties arise in trying to relocate exotic birds, such as helping them adjust to new owners and the suffering that comes with people parting with them.
"The intake process can be traumatic for people giving up a pet," Franco said. "It can be the same for the bird, especially when a person (dies), because they know that person's voice, and they can't handle it when a person passes away. They're unique creatures, and they have a unique set of needs."
The pre-screening process for placing birds in new homes through the society can take up to two weeks. They are often taken into foster homes for the first few months before being adopted. Those who adopt a bird from the organization pay a fee of at least $150, which covers the initial veterinary exam.
In addition to adoptions, the society also assists bird owners in crisis situations. Recently, a woman in Paradise was admitted to the hospital, leaving her three parrots behind, one of which has been in the family for more than 40 years. Her niece from Wisconsin, Suzanne Schroeder, stepped in to find temporary housing for the birds through the Park Animal Hospital, 8400 S. Eastern Ave. Hospital employees connected Schroeder with the society, which provided temporary housing for the birds.
"The process was very seamless and transparent," Schroeder said. "To try to place birds is pretty tough. This is their specialty. Having to deal with these types of birds takes a special ability."
Franco said in screening homes for birds, she is searching for "a needle in a haystack," as finding someone to care for these animals takes a time commitment and ability different from caring for a cat or dog. The organization offers Bird 101 classes on an as-needed basis . The sessions usually run for three hours and cover the basics of bird care for potential owners. Bird specialists through the society may also deal with behavioral problems or offer classes on the subject, as Franco said several owners seek to give up these exotic creatures because of such issues.
"Perhaps more important than that number (of birds rehomed) is the number we've kept in their homes," Franco said. "Many have behavioral issues, and we try to figure out why. We've easily kept over 100 birds in their homes."
Amy Ainsworth, veterinary technician at the Park Animal Hospital, sees the same trends.
"It's easier when the bird is fairly tame and older," Ainsworth said. "All of these birds that have been rehomed are not very old and talking a lot. SNPERRS is good at (dealing) with some of these behavioral issues."
Another concern Franco has is the inability of a person giving up a bird to accept that he will no longer have ownership of the pet.
"We're not looking to keep somebody's bird," Franco said. "People give their birds to us and say they'll come back, but we find that people are in a state of denial. It's very, very hard to give up a pet. Many of us are involved (in this organization) because we know we'll be there one day."
For more information on the organization, call 856-3300 or visit snperrs.org.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-4686.