Animal Anecdote No. 50
While in veterinary school (1943 grad ) we learned a limited amount about caged birds and of parakeets we learned about the contagious disease, Psittacosis that spread to humans. About the time I started practice the papers were full of warnings as to the dangers of parakeets resulting in owners disposing of many of them, cage and all for the trash people to dispose of. Many were released by the rubbish haulers. The Commissioner of Health passed regulations that owners could keep their pets but it would henceforth be illegal to purchase, or to give one away assuming that would be the end of those delightful birds being kept as pets.
In practice the numbers of pet budgies gradually increased presenting a dilemma among veterinarians. Should we treat such birds? Should we refuse to attempt to help any non-human animal in need? Should we report such a creature to the Commissioner of Health? Most of us helped the birds. A simple cure for Psittacosis became available and that ended the fear of the problem but not a change in the regulations.
I had two clients with over a thousand parakeets each who wanted to sell young birds within the State and a meeting of a few of us and the Commissioner resulted in a change of the law to one in which each bird would have a band so that a number could be traced to the source of the disease. Many birds had been presented to me for euthanasia. In keeping with my principal of raising each species to learn from it I asked permission to keep the birds myself and no charge to the owner. I put each new bird lose in a room with nest boxes and let nature take its course. The numbers of birds did not seem to increase but the number of empty bird cages did.
The large breeder’s claimed the life expectancy was about 4-5 years of a breeding pair but in my practice I had birds that owners claimed to be as much as 12 years old. I wondered, why? Asking what owners of older birds fed their birds I was surprised that the supposedly seed eaters would dine with some owners and eat hamburger meat and chicken, mashed potato and any vegetables and salads right off their plates with them. They would eat anything.
From that time on I fed seeds and once weekly all the scrapings from dinner plates from the previous week. The birds would flock down to the garbage and reveled in the meal. Soon all the nest boxes became full of eggs and hatchlings and soon I had to separate sexes. Sometimes it takes time for the obvious to become accepted.
Next time to devocalize a dog? Words 455