Personality, Not Pity, Is the Key to Promoting Adoptions

November 4, 2010

Over at the Pet Connection Blog, Christie Keith points out a study that reinforces something a few of us have already known instinctively: posting pet adoption ads that scream of desperation might get a lot of views and pity, but it doesn’t help the cause (either long term or short term). The article talks about pet adoption ads that actually end up reinforcing people’s fears about shelters, and by extension shelter dogs.

Similarly, I know from my conversations with other people that many individuals interested in birds rule out adopting a parrot — instead opting to go to a breeder — because they think they can’t handle the baggage that comes with a “rescue bird”.

Ann Brooks, founder of the parrot welfare organization Phoenix Landing, shared her thoughts on her attempts to change how people think of rehomed birds:

We need to change our paradigm about pet birds, and the jargon that we use to describe their lives in captivity. If we can help people understand that rehomed birds come from bad AND good situations, perhaps people will be more likely to consider adoption first.

We also do a huge disservice to birds if we use the term “forever home.” Very few healthy birds are able to stay in the same place for their entire lives. Even the smallest parrot (a parakeet) has the potential to live longer than a dog.

We can all agree that animals should not live in neglect, and certainly many birds do. They certainly deserve better. However, I hope we can all begin to acknowledge that birds should not go from the good life to the bad either, just because they need a new home. My long-lived Phoenix will surely outlive me, and she deserves a safe and healthy new family as much as the bird that was dumped at the shelter. The best thing I can do to insure she has a good future is to help change our perception about why birds need new homes.

In other words, not all rehomed birds are “problem birds.” Birds may need new homes for any number of reasons, chief among them that parrots live a very long time.

I’ve had the fortune of learning a lot over the years about the work Phoenix Landing does and I know that there are many adoptable parrots in foster care who just need someone to love them for the great pets they already are.

To learn more about Phoenix Landing’s work and read about some of the birds, large and small, available for adoption, please visit http://www.phoenixlanding.org/ and click on the newsletter from the homepage.



  1. Wonderful article. Very true. Many birds do come from good homes, but need new ones when their owners health diminishes or even passes away. Many birds do have wonderful and loving personalities when they arrive at shelters, rescues, and sanctuaries.

  2. Thank you for spreading this important message Melanie. As the Virginia adoption coordinator, I can tell you that 80 percent of the birds who come to us do so for the same reason, the family no longer has the time to care for the bird. Life changes really do get in the way. People should understand how much work/time/money a parrot’s care requires before they bring one home. A bird is a huge commitment, and our classes can give potential caretakers insight into that. Even if you do not adopt through a group like Phoenix Landing, please bring a bird into your life responsibly, and educate yourself and your family to the challenges and joys of living with a bird before you get one.

  3. Excellent post. I’m going to share this on my FB page.

  4. I share my home with a Grey adopted from a rescue, a Hahns adopted from a shelter and a Senegal I got from a breeder. And the bird that came with the issue? The Sennie. He was getting to be a pretty nasty biter at 4 months of age. I actually took him for that reason(clicker training has made a huge improvement on this behavior). There are so many birds that need a home especially in this economy and the labels certainly don’t help.

  5. Your comments on educating people that parrots requiring a new home come from a wide variety of situations. My wife and I have adopted a Timneh, a Congo and a DYH Amazon. In each instance the birds were displaced due to the personal circumstances of their original owners.
    This evening “Popeye” our Amazon made me laugh as I listened into a little medly of favorites songs that he had learned at his previous residence. I have found that our rescued birds have settled in ver well.
    Rescue if/when you can, not because you pity them, but because it is a pleasure to enjoy their company!

  6. I completely agree. In my experience, some of the best parrot-human bonds have occurred when the human/parrot first met when the parrot was 20+ years old.

    Just like people, parrots have preferences. You’re going to love any parrot that comes into your home, but parrots can be a bit pickier.

    I know quite a few people whose babies turned on them once they hit maturity. With an older parrot, you have a better idea of what you’re going to get, and if you adopt one that chooses you, you’re miles ahead in the game. It’s magical.

    One of my birds we purchased as a baby before we knew about rescue; the other 4 were acquired by us at the ages of 5, 8, 9, and 19. If we were on a hidden camera show, there’s no way anyone could guess which one we got as a baby and which ones were older.

    I truly believe that the greatest chance of success with a parrot comes in adopting an older bird.

    The vast majority of the birds that are surrendered to the rescue where I volunteer have no behavioral problems (other than the typical problems of a wild animal trying to live in captivity) and absolutely blossom in a good environment. They were just unlucky to have been purchased by people who had life changes or unrealistic expectations about what living with a bird really entailed.

    Great article!

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