Part II – Which Shelter is Which (AKA – The Shelters Strike Back)

Alright, the intermission is over, time to get back to work!

Let me clarify this again, I’m not supporting one or the other type of organization with this post.  They both have their good points along with their bad.  My only purpose in writing about this is to help clarify the difference for a lot of people and (hopefully) help the birds end up in the best possible situations for their circumstances.

The shelters I mentioned in the first part of this post could probably be classified as “sanctuaries” more so than a “shelter”.  The major difference between the two is that one permanently homes, while the other adopts.  So it’s time to talk about the “shelters” this time!


These are the organizations that take in birds from many sources and proceed to find suitable homes for them.


Able to match personalities of birds with humans


Spree, a very nervous Caique, was very happily adopted by a family that absolutely adored her!

There’s a certain pass time many avian caregivers at these shelters participate in, even without knowing it many times – it’s the interspecies version of “The Dating Game” (Wait, did that come our wrong?!)

What I mean is, people who work around enough birds (or other animals) are often able to match certain personality traits in the different species/breeds of animals in their care, with humans they have also met.  This leads to terms like referring to a person as a “Cockatoo person” (and some of you are probably nodding your heads in agreement with that phrase…) or a “Grey person” (and now I’ll go and nod my own head in agreement…)

Although personalities, quirks and preferences are going to vary a bit, at least this gives people a good starting point to go on.  Being able to get that immediate sense of whether or not a home is one a certain species of bird will do well in is a huge advantage when screening potential adopters!

Are often able to take in many birds throughout a year based on adoption rates

This is almost exactly opposite of the sanctuaries’ approach.  By adopting birds out, vacancies are made available for new ones to come in.  The more birds that are able to come through those doors in a year, the more birds that can be rescued from potentially disastrous situations.

Money, money, money, money…

For once, I’ll mention money as a positive thing!  *gasp*

Any shelter worth their weight, knows the income potential for adoptions.  I met with Mike Arms (Director of the Helen Woodward Animal Center near San Diego) one day about a year ago and he outlined a process he had been using for years regarding adoptions… especially the fees.  In short, the idea is to charge just under retail/breeder rates.

This is a completely foreign concept to many people in the animal rescue field.  I’m sure some people reading this may be gasping in shock… I know I was.

The concept is all about psychology though.  If you go to that “Shall Not Be Named Big Box Store” and bought a plastic broom for $3.00, the second the handle broke off, you’d just toss it away and go back to buy another $3.00 broom.

What if that broom was an animal… and what if that “Shall Not Be Named Big Box Store” was a local animal shelter?  What if, instead of breaking, the dog/cat/bird you adopted became seriously ill and needed a few hundred dollars of medical care?

Logically, it would simply make more sense to get rid of the animal and pick up a new one.  Of course, the work on the shelter now increases ten-fold, trying to weed out the bargain hunters from the truly caring individuals.

Setting adoption rates closer to the retail mark though, makes people seriously consider the commitment they’re about to make.  The bargain hunters automatically get weeded out and the job of the shelter gets that much easier not having to screen them out.

What does this mean for a bird shelter that adopts out their residents?  Using that same method for a parrot rescue…  M O N E Y!  Unlike their permanent-home counterpart, a shelter that receives a $1,200 macaw on their door step, can easily turn around and suggest an adoption fee near the $1,000 mark.

Multiply that adoption fee by the number of birds they can adopt in a year…

(Now, before you toss up your arms and storm off to the comments section to leave nasty criticisms, keep reading down to the “cons” section!)

Accessibility for humans

Shelters looking to adopt birds to humans are going to make damn sure humans can actually reach them!  They’re going to try to make themselves available to the public and talk with people who show up for an adoption or just to ask questions.

If you’ve never seen or been to a parrot rescue of any type before, these types of shelters are probably going to resemble what you would picture a normal animal shelter looking like, with a waiting area, restrooms and an office placed within easy access for people, while the aviaries, cages and other enclosures are laid out in a “people friendly” pattern to access.


“Greed is good”


Alright, let’s start breathing again and I’ll get to this one right off the bat!

Money is a good thing and a bad one.  It’s good for a shelter to have money so they can continue to rescue the birds, but there’s a very real human factor that often gets in the way and trips things up.

Setting their rates high and bringing in money with adoptions looks great on paper!  It looks so great, in fact, that people might be inclined to overlook certain, less-than-favorable conditions in a potential adopter, or not spend as much time as they should with socializing and getting to know their residents.

There is a very fine line that has to be acknowledged when weighing the money an adoption can bring in versus the conditions of the adoption.  If no home is ever good enough, then the shelter converts itself into a sanctuary and has an entirely new set of problems to deal with.  If every home is perfect due to the dollar signs people see, then the shelter should dissolve their non-profit status and just change themselves into a pet store.

It’s all a very fine balancing act that even some very, very, VERY large organizations in this field have toppled off of to one side or the other at some points in their existence!

The “temporary” mindset

You know how you go to the store, buy something, bring it home, set it to the side thinking, “that’s a good spot for now” and 10 months later you notice it’s still in that same spot?


If they’re supposed to be temporary, why build a deck, driveway, yard and patio??

There’s no telling how long an animal will stay between coming through the doors of a shelter and being adopted.  A “temporary” cage may turn into a permanent home for the bird until they’re adopted 2 years later.

The crossover

This actually continues off the last point.  I’ve seen shelters like this think they’re a sanctuary and start designing their plans accordingly; large aviaries, large flocks of birds living together, etc.  The problem is, they’re not.

It seems that in order to combat the “temporary mindset” they go much too far off in the other direction and start designing these grand plans for an “avian paradise”.  The problems are, the goals of these shelters are still along the lines of adoptions, the birds they get in are generally the human-socialized types and most people looking to adopt birds aren’t going to be able to build a huge 50×50 foot structure for them and adopt a dozen at a time.

How do the staff socialize with birds when there’s a flock of 20 all intermingling and affecting each other’s behavior?  How does the staff know the types of personalities or how well certain birds will do around certain people if they look at a bird that’s gone from living in a home with a small family of humans, to being thrown into a flock with dozens of birds they can’t identify with?

Birds that may be a perfect match for some people and have the opportunity to live with a great family can easily be overlooked or mislabeled if they become neurotic living in this type of foreign environment.


The biggest problem/excuse I’ve heard.  It takes staff to learn the birds and the people.  It takes staff to file the paperwork, do the home visits, checkup on the bird later on, etc.  It also takes people who have the right amount of understanding about people and birds, to successfully work at adopting them.  Many places simply can’t afford this.

The more staff they need, the less money is being directed towards the birds.  Then people start to criticize them for becoming “bloated” and having too many people, too much outreach and not enough hands-on care.  It’s a slippery slope…




The real key to all of this is to simply know what type of bird you’re dealing with.  Both these types of rescues can provide great homes for the right birds… they can also provide some of the worst homes for the wrong birds.

If you are dealing with a very people-friendly, socialized bird, regardless of your own attachment and prejudices, it would be in that bird’s best interest to end up going to a home where they could happily be themselves among another “flock” of humans.

If the bird you’re dealing with is neurotic, antisocial and terrified of being around humans, it would be in the best interest of that bird to live amongst other birds he/she can relate to and have as little contact with people as possible.


I am an animal advocate. I not only love, but respect animals... all animals. I have spent several years of my life dedicated to working in animal rescue and now have very little left to lose in expressing my true thoughts and ideals on the subject.

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Posted in Animals, Parrots

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