Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Animal sheltering is a field that offers challenges in many shapes and forms. This often is best represented in the animals we care for or are asked to care for. Consider the animal kingdom, it is a vast array of animal species that go from tiny to enormous. Break that down even further to animals that are simply domesticated, and you are still left with a massive list that includes the tiniest pocket pet to the largest farm animal. An urban animal shelter, as you might expect, isn't able to house and care for every possible animal species for an extended period. We have, at Forever Paws Animal Shelter, converted a dog run into a holding area for a 150-pound pig on occasion. We've altered a play yard to house a goat, added massive fish tanks to our halls to house turtles, pumped the heat to "max" for reptiles, and plenty of other on-the-fly alterations. If you think it sounds overwhelming, comical, and needlessly complicated… you are right.
Most animal shelters are designed, primarily, for the two largest domestic animal species that are surrendered; dogs and cats. Modern shelters are being built with accommodation for many up and coming species that are surrendered; farm animals, reptiles, birds, and pocket pets. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association's 2017-2018 Pet Ownership Census, there are more than 7.5 million birds in American homes. Nearly 2 million horses, half a million ferrets, and 2.2 million rabbits were also reported as pets in American households. Most shelters that are in existence today simply cannot house these animals for a prolonged period. We know that these other types of animals are being surrendered, abandoned, and neglected…so what options are left in these situations? Rescues.
At Forever Paws we are happy to work with many rescues, near and far. These groups specialize in either specific species or offer foster-based housing alternatives. Through the course of a year, we will see all manner of pet come into our shelter. As we are presented with situations that involve species that we are unable to appropriately offer care to, long-term, we reach out to our rescue partners to find situations that will benefit the animal and its needs.
This can include something as simple as a pet ferret. Ferrets are relatively easy to care for and have needs that are reasonably met in a traditional shelter environment. An exception to this can be their predisposition to tumors. According to the Merck Veterinary manual ferrets stand likely to develop 3 out of 4 types of tumor growths. While surgical intervention is usually successful in the removal of these tumors, the care needed around the surgery can be very sensitive. In instances where our ferrets have required care beyond daily husbandry, we have worked very successfully with groups like South Shore Ferret Care Rescue & Hospice, Inc.
This year we were presented with two large parrots, both with very specific dietary and care needs. When the owner called to inquire about surrendering them, she reported having "two parakeets" she could no longer keep. Parakeets, generally, are measured in inches and ounces. However, when she presented with the birds they were, a Blue-Fronted Amazon Parrot and a Lesser Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. These types of parrots can be measured in pounds and by the foot; a huge difference considering the needs of care. In addition to the basic care needs, housing for parrots is recommended to be at least one and a half times the width of the bird's wingspan, nutrition, and temperatures are all vital components of care.
Making this situation even worse was the condition the two exotic birds were in. The Amazon, upon exam, had massive growths around its neck. The cockatoo was bald from head to foot. While an experienced foster home was able to help rehabilitate the cockatoo, the Amazon was a huge concern. After reaching out to a few parrot-specific rescues, we got in touch with the amazing and hardworking people at Foster Parrots. They agreed to take on the responsibility and care of "Peanut", the Blue-Fronted Amazon.
According to their July Newsletter,
"Peanut's case was a bit more problematic. After two visits with Dr. Wietsma at Coventry Animal Hospital, Peanut's air sacs continued to inflate the skin miserably around her neck and upper back. Finally, Dr. Wietsma performed a light, surgical procedure, inserting a stent to provide lasting relief. She is now on her way – we hope – to a full recovery."
Peanut's issue, as it turned out, was an issue with her very fragile and sensitive air sacs. Karen Windsor, Executive Director of Foster Parrots, reports,
"Peanut was happily adopted. It took a bit of effort to get her air sac problem under control, but the stents were ultimately successful”.
Collaborative rescue partners like Foster Parrots, and their willingness to help our shelter and Peanut the parrot are what helped provide Peanut with the level of care that she required and deserved. There are many rescues and specialty groups operating today, each one fighting for donor dollars and to pay their operating expenses. These groups work diligently to help save and improve the lives of the animals they have focused on. They bring expertise, equipment, and veterinary care that is concentrated on the special needs of each species. Karen said it best in a recent email,
“We are big proponents of collaboration and cooperation between organizations. We can help more animals together than we can divided!”