In October, Carleton Place will become home to the only charitable aviary and adoption centre in Canada.
“We have a saying that the underdog of the pet world is the parrot, there aren’t the same kinds of support mechanisms for parrots as there are for cats and dog,” said Judy Tennant, the executive director at Parrot Partner.
Parrot Partner is a non-profit charitable corporation that works exclusively to rehabilitate, train and find new homes for relinquished parrots.
“People often have to give their parrots up because they get in over the heads,” said Tennant. “These are wild animals, they are not yet domesticated but they’re sold as if they are.” Tennant said people are shocked the find out that parrots can be harder to look after than cats and dogs.
For example, macaws have more bite pressure in their beaks than the American pitbull, and some breeds of parrots can live up to 80 years.
The trainers at Parrot Partner are professional behaviourists and work with the parrots to reverse the bad habits they developed to when living with previous owners. For example, instead of screaming, which is a natural form of communication for wild parrots, Tennant said they are taught to say ‘Hello’ instead because it’s more palatable in a household than a screech is. “We address those bad habits, we reshape them and retrain them,” she said.
When the parrots have been trained, Parrot Partner finds new homes for them. This is what makes Parrot Partner unique. “If they aren’t rehabilitated, the parrot keeps hopping from home to home to home – and that’s a sin,” she said.
Parrot Partner’s adoption program has an education component where want-to-be owners are completely trained on how to live with their parrot. Potential new owners will need to invest time into training with the exotic bird before they are allowed to take it home where support continues. Owners are encouraged to ask Parrot Partner for any help they might need.
Tennant started Parrot Partner out of her home and then as a charity in Smiths Falls. Now in Carleton Place, the adoption and education aviary is due to open in October when the renovations in the 6,000 square foot facility are complete. The final product will look similar to a theme park that will mimic the rainforest. “They are wild animals and they need to be able to make choices so the rainforest environment is a place where they can do their natural behaviours, like chew, climb and fly a little bit,” said Tennant.
The aviary will be open to the public. For a small admission fee, groups will be able to walk through the aviary with a trainer and a tour guide. “Visitors actually help us do the training,” Tennant said. Generalizing is a form of training the centre uses and it teaches the parrots that they are expected to perform the behaviours for everyone, not just the trainers.
A venture like this though is not inexpensive, but there are multiple revenue streams that Parrot Partner relies on: a fee for visitors and adoptions, a gift shop, boarding for people who have parrots, training workshops, donations and public events.
“We have education birds that stay with us who are very extroverted. We visit places like nursing homes and community fairs with them for a fee,” explained Tennant.
This article was first published in the September issue of Hometown News. For more articles from our September issue, pick up a print copy at a local retailer or read our digital version.