On Monday night, neighbors of a condemned house in Pueblo, Colorado, called animal control, reporting that there were perhaps five tropical birds in the house and they hadn’t seen the owner for days. It was a vast underestimate. When officials checked out the home the following day, they found 45 macaws, about 150 pigeons, and an assortment of cats and dogs.
The house had no heat or water, and the birds were in “pretty bad shape nutrition-wise,” Donna Straub, director of the Pueblo Community Animal Shelter, told the Pueblo Chieftan. The owner “had no money to feed them. He had given them some dog food but these birds were in bad shape," she said. "In fact, we had three birds that died overnight (Tuesday)."
After getting a warrant, animal control officers aided by local police officers, removed the 43 exotic birds. Workers from an exotic bird sanctuary, the Gabriel Foundation, are assisting with the birds care, but for now, the fate of the macaws, and their owner, remains uncertain.
"We don't want to condemn this man,” Straub said. “I don't think there was intentional cruelty at all, but we had to get a warrant to save these animals. We had to act today. We had three birds that died overnight. Who knows how many we could've lost tonight (Wednesday)."
Unfortunately, cases of maltreated exotic birds are not unusual, as journalist Mira Tweti explains in her book Of Parrots and People. Within the past 40 years birds, particularly parrots, have become one of the fastest-growing pet choices in the US, with an estimated 40 million to 60 million living in homes nationwide. But, Tweti, shows, the popularity has a price: demand can have devestating effects on wild populations, and some captive birds suffer horrific mutilation, malnourishment, and psychological abuse inflicted by their owners and suppliers.
Of course, that’s not always so, but tragedies such as the one in Pueblo highlight the dark side of the exotic pet trade.