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For Immediate Release: 01/05/05

National Bird Day, January 5, 2005

Animal Advocates Call on Legislators to Make 2005 “For the Birds”

Sacramento, CA — Today the Animal Protection Institute (API), in coordination with the Avian Welfare Coalition (AWC) and their supporters, celebrates “National Bird Day” by calling on legislators to consider legislation aimed at increasing protections for captive birds.

Exotic birds were America’s fastest-growing pet choice in the 1990s. Consequently, they are now one of the fastest growing groups of unwanted “pets” in the United States. There are currently over 100 self-described bird rescues or sanctuaries in the United States, many of which have come into existence in just the last few years to address the epidemic of displaced, captive birds. Despite their public popularity and increasing presence in shelters and rescue facilities birds are often ignored or short-changed when in comes to protection under anti-cruelty and pet shop laws.

“Very few people understand the commitment necessary to meet the special needs of exotic birds,” explains Avian Welfare Coalition President Denise Kelly. “As the novelty of having an exotic creature wears off, many birds end up confined to cages, passed from home to home, become victims of abuse or neglect, are relinquished to shelters or simply abandoned.”

Adds API Senior Program Coordinator Monica Engebretson, “While we have enacted laws to protect our native birds — such as blue jays, cardinals, and crows — from the retail industry, we have failed to adequately protect captive exotic birds and to recognize the inconsistency in allowing the pet industry to exploit the birds of other countries.”

The sale and possession of captive birds are regulated by a patchwork of federal and state laws. Only 17 states (and the District of Columbia) require that pet stores provide a defined level of humane care birds in their custody and only 6 states have statues or regulations which establish minimum care standards for birds, kept in any situation whether commercial or a private home. While regulations for birds are being considered under the Animal Welfare Act, these laws will not apply to most birds kept in private ownership or sold in retail venues.

In an effort to protect parrots in the retail pet industry, API and the AWC introduced California Assembly Bill 202, requiring that parrots are able to eat on their own (“weaned”) before release from a pet shop and that pet shops must have one to two employees trained in the care and feeding of young birds. The bill went into effect on September 1,2004, making California the first state in the nation to regulate the sale of unweaned birds, a precedent adamantly opposed by Petco and others in the pet industry.

API has drafted model unweaned bird and pet shop legislation available to interested legislators and offers support with assistance from the AWC and other animal advocates in passing such legislation.

The Animal Protection Institute is a national non-profit animal advocacy organization with tens of thousands of members, working to protect animals from cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. For more information about API’s exotic bird campaign, please visit www.MoreBeautifulWild.org.

The Avian Welfare Coalition is a working alliance of veterinarians, conservationists, avian welfare and animal protection organizations dedicated to the ethical treatment of exotic birds. For more information about the AWC please visit: www.avianwelfare.org.

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