When something big happens, similar stories seem to break out all over the place. This time, it is the hoarding of exotic birds. With the Case in Tennessee ended and forgotten, and the Union Township, Ohio case still dragging on, another case that almost slipped under the radar cropped up about the same time in Florida.
On July 3, 2011, Karen Atwood, who is a part of Florida Parrot Rescue, received a phone call from a fledgling rescue not too far that needed her assistance. The task at hand was to save 27 live exotic birds from neglectful and horrendous conditions.
The conditions were a makeshift shed. It was not even a shed, but a twelve foot square wood frame wrapped with chicken wire. The only thing shielding the inside were two tarps coving the structure from top to bottom. There was a padlock on the door and the estimated inside temperature of the structure was about 115 degrees. Cages lined the inside from floor to ceiling, wall to wall.
This was just the beginning. The caretakers of the property had removed the birds and began to feed them and give them fresh water, The water they were found with was no longer a liquid, but gelatinous. Food was moldy where it could be found, but otherwise, food was scarce.
Inside the cages was a gruesome find. Dead birds had not been removed before adding new, live birds to the collection. These corpses were the only perches in the cages for these birds. Birds are intelligent creatures, they must have known that this would be their fate too, if not for rescuers. Babies had died in nest boxes and not been removed.
Atwood says there were ants, spiders and roaches everywhere. Cobwebs and spider webs covered carcasses. There were even skulls and skeletons of birds outside the makeshift shed. Police were called immediately to the property. The officers interviewed the five rescuers on the scene, the caretakers and the property owner. Animal control of Highlands County was also called in.
“It was obvious that the birds that had been pulled out had not been there long. Perhaps they were a new batch that were brought in after the last batch died. Carcasses were at varying levels of decay, from stripped skeletons to freshly dead,” Karen Atwood said of the birds.
While animal control did look the birds over, they did not go to the “shed”. They stated that the county did not have the proper facility to house birds and suggested that the two rescues take the birds. When police gave the green light, the paperwork was processed.
The crime unit was called in and the makeshift shed was deemed a crime scene and cordoned. Atwood said that “by the time we looked at all the birds for any emergencies that would need to be handled at that time, the investigator had already found close to 25 full skeletons of birds.” She believes there were probably more than that. “I also find it hard to believe that anything could have survived in those conditions for more than a few days.”
Atwood and Florida Parrot Rescue took on 10 of the birds. Among them was a green cheeked conure pair, seven Amazon Parrots, and a gold capped conure. The remaining 17 birds went with Parrots as Pets Rescue. Those birds included 15 Quaker Parrots, a severe macaw, and a double yellow-headed Amazon Parrot.
The 10 birds FPR rescued were all given a clean bill of health. Four of the Amazons were determined to be wild caught and untamed and would not be happy in companion homes. They will live out their lives at Florida Exotic Bird Sanctuary in as natural a setting as possible. One of the birds from this mission has been adopted and those remaining are still up for adoption. One of the birds in PAPR’s care needed surgery. The surgery was a success and all of the rescued birds from this mission are available for adoption on their website.
Several PAPR birds are already in loving forever homes. “What happened in Sebring was truly a story of outright neglect and mistreatment,” Atwood said. Charges are pending against the owner and the rescuers are hoping that she is punished “to the fullest extent of the law.”