Disposable Pets

The British comedy group, Monty Python, does a great sketch about getting rid of a budgie by flushing it down the loo. Of course, then they breed in the sewers and you have great flocks of soiled budgies flying about. Too funny.

Sadly, there’s a lot of truth behind that sketch. People flush goldfish and other tropical fishes, turtles, and even mice. They bring pet ducks and turtles too big to fit in the toilet to the nearest lake or park and set them free. Many bring old, sick pets to shelters and abandon them because the humans these animals love didn’t return the love even half as much.


111217 goldfish
He does look flushed.


I have many old birds that are retired, in a way. I’d never breed them but they were given to me and I did my best to provide them with a good life. I won’t stop until they stop. These include two canaries, a rosy Bourke parakeet, three cockatiels, and have included lovebirds and budgies.

When I heard people discussing the best way to “dispose of” finches that were no longer wanted for breeding but were too old to sell, I had to step in. I can think of no worse reward to an animal of any kind who has given its best years to breed and provide new breeding stock. These are show finches, doubtless, they brought ribbons and awards to their owner.

111217 zebra finch winner

I now have 7 beautiful zebra finches mingling with my aviary flock, and two more society finches. Maybe I am a “bleeding heart” and maybe I don’t understand the way of the world. Whatever. I am thrilled to have these senior citizens where I can watch them and delight in their calls.

Do dog breeders do this? I believe the animals past their prime are spayed or neutered and then sold as companions. The AKC has a Rescue Network that helps place these dogs.  The horror of the Loxahatchee macaws in Florida, where the caretakers disappeared without a trace and the birds starved to death, could easily happen at a large puppy mill or cattery in rural areas. But those situations are different than knowingly killing the very animal you claim to love and support so much.

111217 senior dog

Thousands of parrots are surrendered to sanctuaries and bird rescues every year because the buyer didn’t do the research, didn’t know basic facts about parrots, and didn’t know what else to do when it was too late. In my neighborhood, a woman had a cockatoo that loved her, but she traveled frequently for long stretches of time. She left the cockatoo with family, but the bird missed her and began to pluck its breast until it bled. I haven’t heard the parrot calling when we walk in the neighborhood, so I hope that means the owner collected the bird at last. The worst outcome may have been the result of such neglect.

111217 macaws

I’ve seen parrots, cockatiels, parakeets, and finches in county shelters, as well as lots of ducks and roosters. I’ve seen parrots surrendered to veterinarians when the bill was too high. I’ve taken a zebra finch to a vet for a growth on its cheek. They were amazed that I paid over $100 to keep that little bird alive and healthy. I would never take on an animal of any kind if I wasn’t prepared to care for it, no matter what.

In sickness and in health, until death do we part. That’s the oath all pet owners, all companion animal breeders, should be willing to take. No animal is disposable when it has given us what we asked of it. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back next Sunday.

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