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Stolen From My Home

As an aviculturist, one reader shares her horrible tragedy.

Debbie Totaro

I chose to become an aviculturist eight and a half years also as a way to earn income to help support my birds, because it was fairly impossible to find work anywhere near my home. With little time left over after caring for my birds each day, I found out you rarely make money breeding birds. I started raising large birds about five years ago, and it was about five years before that when I paired off prior pets, joining the need to produce for the pet market demand. Only a couple of years after my big guys (blue-and-gold macaws, military macaws and three pairs of Mollucan cockatoos) began producing did I realize there was a problem. I was not prepared for the crushing vet bills that undoubtedly occurred regardless of how well I cared for them. Nor was I prepared for how difficult it was to sell babies, especially when parting with a single one broke your heart, being picky about who buys your babies and trying to ensure they would have good homes because you felt responsible for their futures. Babies were hard to sell (for me anyway), and I started to hear about all these sanctuaries and rescue organizations that began popping up everywhere.

As my flock of birds grew, so did my liability. But I had yearned to do what I loved so much and to be an aviculturist. After all, where would the future of birds be without people to raise them?

Somewhere along the line, I bit off more than I could chew. This is not an endeavor to take on alone.

Besides, nowadays I feel more emphasis is needed in the rescue of our exotic parrots rather than producing more, taking care of the ones we already have and the provisions of more sanctuaries, as long as the birds are properly cared for and their needs attended to.

My interests have shifted to rescue. I fear may end up as cats and dogs do now, unwanted in shelters and being euthanized by the thousands.

My efforts include volunteering my time and efforts to pick up animals from the "kill" shelter and relocating them to a "no kill" shelter and trying to find homes for some. It saddens one's heart to see so many animals born, only to die unwanted and unloved. If we can only help one, it makes a difference to that one bird or animal. That particular one times all of us makes a big difference.

Shifting my efforts toward education, I allowed people onto my property to see and play with my birds while giving talks. Sadly and shockingly, it opened the door to this theft. On November 13, 2000, I had my beloved pet, Lucy (a female red-sided Eclectus) stolen at night, while I was home, not 20 feet from my front door.

Her being kidnapped was a crushing blow, and I've struggled just trying to make it through each day, to stay in touch with the sheriff, to follow every tiny lead in hopes of getting Lucy back. It's like one of my family members was kidnapped, and I just can't give up hope or stop worrying about her, wishing I knew where she is and if she is okay. I will never forgive myself for being so lax when I know of so many people who raise birds and never let sightseers onto their property. What a horrible price to pay for being nice. I don't know how anyone could be so heartless.

Please accept my deepest thank you. There are just no words that can express how grateful I am that you took the time form your busy lives to lend me your support.

Debbie Totaro — California


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