About Us

Advocating for Captive Birds Since 2000

AWC is an all-volunteer advocacy group created to provide a voice in the animal protection community for captive birds. We provide educational resources for animal advocates, the media and the general public, and collaborate with like-minded organizations and professionals in related fields. Learn more about our programs and campaigns.

In recognition of our 20th anniversary, we are taking the opportunity to reflect on, highlight and celebrate our accomplishments:

Our Major Achievements – A Timeline

– AWC President, Denise Kelly, and Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals CEO, Jane Hoffman, Esq., organize an alliance of avian rescue groups to produce a first-ever written presentation on the concerns of captive bird welfare to the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on Animals and the Law 7th Annual Conference, “Political Animals.” This valuable resource enabled parrot rescue organizations to bridge communications with key leaders of the animal protection community in discussions regarding the growing problem of unwanted parrots entering shelters and rescue facilities.

– AWC organizes the first-ever conference of avian rescue and animal advocacy organizations from across the country in a roundtable discussion devoted to exploring strategies to meet the crucial challenges of rescue, sanctuary and placement of captive birds

This conference brings more than 40 groups together and resulted in several initiatives launched by major animal protection organizations on behalf of captive birds, including the ASPCA’s inaugural Adopt a Rescue Bird Month, which set the stage for many shelter and humane organizations to launch bird adoption programs, upgrade care standards for birds within their facilities, and form partnerships with the broader avian rescue community to help birds in need.

- AWC establishes January 5th as National Bird Day, a day of action and education for captive birds. Now in its 20th successful year and recognized by organizations worldwide, our annual campaign aims to reduce the suffering of birds by raising public awareness of the destructive bird trade, the realities of cruel bird breeding mills, and ways to improve the welfare of birds already in captivity

– AWC launches the Avian Welfare Coalition Resource Center – the first website dedicated to the concerns of captive exotic birds exploited by the pet trade. Our website was designed to serve as an educational resource for the media, lawmakers, and the general public. Today, the AWC website continues to provide a variety of resources for bird caretakers and animal care professionals, including downloadable brochures and posters, articles, webinars, and more.

– AWC holds its 2nd Avian Welfare Roundtable in Washington, D.C., once again brings together avian rescue organizations with leading animal protection and conservation organizations in an interactive forum to explore and implement strategies to meet the needs of displaced captive birds, generate public awareness and expand legal protection to birds exploited by the pet trade and in their natural habitats.

– AWC formally incorporates as a non-profit organization in Minnesota.

- AWC has its first meeting with the USDA on regulations for birds under the Animal Welfare Act.

- as part of National Bird Day, AWC along with Animal Protection Institute (API) launches a campaign asking Petco and PetsMart to end the sale of live birds. AWC and API organize protests, produce leaflets for activists to hand out, and urge customers to call and write the pet store chains.

– AWC hosts its 3rd conference, “Born to be Wild: The Survival of Parrots from Conservation to Animal Control,” in Minneapolis, Minnesota in partnership with Midwest Avian & Adoption Rescue Services (MAARS). The focus of this forum was to broaden relations between avian rescue, animal advocacy and sheltering organizations and the avian veterinary and conservation communities, and also provided an opportunity to open discussions with USDA and other government agencies on expanding Federal, State and local protections for birds in commerce.

- AWC and API sponsor a precedent-setting bill that is signed by California Governor Grey Davis restricting the sale of unweaned birds in California. The bill required parrots be weaned (able to eat on their own) before released from a pet store, and that pet shops must have at least one employee trained in the care and feeding of young birds.

– AWC board members participate in Best Friends Animal Society’s “No More Homeless Pets” online forum, a four-part series that provided an ongoing discussion and the exchange of ideas among people who are working to help homeless animals of all kinds in their communities. AWC subsequently contributes to the development of Best Friends’ avian care, placement and education program.

- AWC participates in a working group to propose standards of care for birds not bred for research under the Animal Welfare Act. The document was signed by 29 animal protection organizations and delivered to the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) on November 4, 2004.

- AWC was instrumental in initiating discussions with leaders of national and international animal protection organizations to establish uniform and enforceable standards of care and operations for wild animals living in sanctuaries in the U.S. and in other countries. These discussions ultimately lead to the founding of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), an accrediting organization established to help strengthen and support the work of legitimate animal sanctuaries worldwide.

Following multiple meetings with AWC and years of campaigning by AWC and others, Petco (and later PetSmart) end the sale of large birds in stores.
– AWC co-founder and board member, Monica Engebretson, publishes “The welfare and suitability of parrots as companion animals a review.” In Universities Federation for Animal Welfare Journal, The article questions why parrot welfare is so compromised and in many cases unachievable in captivity. It was the first article that applied the “Five Freedoms,” a widely used standard used to evaluate animal welfare for many species, to captive bird welfare.
– AWC publishes, Captive Exotic Bird Care: A Guide for Shelters, the first and still the only guide created to assist shelters in developing and implementing guidelines and protocols to meet the special needs of captive exotic birds. Co-sponsored by Born Free USA and the ASPCA, this 112-page booklet provides animal caregivers helpful information on caring for exotic birds in a shelter setting.

– California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs the Pet Store Animal Care Act, which imposes stricter standards for the daily care of all animals sold in stores, including specific care standards and stipulations for birds spearheaded by the AWC. Law came into effect January 1, 2009.
- AWC publishes Lucky: Based on a True Story, an educational children’s book that gently awakens children to the plight of captive birds and birds captured in the wild. This children’s book – based on a true story tells the story of Lucky, a parrot who is captured in the wild and eventually regains his freedom with the help of a young Indonesian boy. Author, Monica Engebretson, also develops an educational curriculum on the book’s dedicated website www.luckythelorikeet.com.

– AWC joins Global Outreach, an initiative formed by World Animal Protection (formerly World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)) to promote mentoring and the sharing of expertise in the international animal protection community. AWC was the only participating group that represented captive exotic birds. This program enabled AWC to provide resources that helped several organizations advance their own efforts to fight the exploitation of exotic birds.

- AWC partners with SOS Fauna, an NGO in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to help facilitate the release of thousands of confiscated birds back to the wild via the WSPA Global Outreach program. AWC develops a comprehensive rehabilitation and release plan and then traveled to Brazil to meet with government agencies to help oversee and implement the release. AWC also served as an advisor to organizations in Thailand and Vietnam on their outreach and educational programs.

– AWC produces the first series of FREE, downloadable pamphlets designed to help shelters and animal care facilities tend to the special needs of birds in a shelter environment. These fully illustrated “How to” guides cover topics practical for caring for birds within a shelter setting: intake, handling, feeding, housing, safety, minimizing stress, medical and quarantine protocols and more. Developed in partnership with Dr. Anthony Pilny DABVP, DVM. and Lorelei Tibbets from New York City’s Center for Avian & Exotic Medicine and supported by the ASPCA, these pamphlets continue to serve as a valuable online resource for animal care facilities caring for captive exotic birds in the U.S. and abroad.

- Animals and Society Institute publishes the policy paper “Parrot Breeding and Keeping – the Impact of Capture and Captivity: How the pet trade results in long-term harm to wild and captive birds.” The paper was co-written by AWC board member Monica Engebretson. AWC provides printing funding for the Spanish-translated edition of the paper.

- AWC backs the California swap meet bill along with Born Free USA and the State Humane Association, which is signed into law. The new law prohibited the sale of animals at swap meets and flea markets, which had historically been prime outlets for the sale of birds smuggled across the Mexico border.

– AWC in partnership with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), release “Protecting Captive Birds,” the first-ever online avian care series for animal shelters and care facilities. The first 3-part series began with an introduction to the “Basics of Caring for Exotic Birds in the Shelter” presented by Anthony Pilny, Anthony Pilny DABVP, DVM.
– AWC along with former GFAS Executive Director and current AWC board member, Kellie Heckman, produce 9 webinars that continue to provide training to animal care professionals on the specialized care of exotic birds. Topics included guidelines for appropriate short-term in shelters and securing quality care for a lifetime, bird placement, advocacy, avian law and estate planning.
AWC co-produces "Unusual Victims" the first of its kind webinar on the complexities of animal cruelty cases involving exotic birds for The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA).  This webinar helped prosecutors and humane enforcement officials better understand how birds experience abuse, suffering, and neglect, and on how to pursue cases and bring charges This webinar was co-produced with the Nancy Blaney, Senior Government Affairs Director of the Animal Welfare Institute, and Dr. Anthony Pilny, DABVP DVM was the presenter!  

– AWC joins the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) to sue the USDA in federal court for their unreasonable delay in promulgating specific standards of care for birds under the Animal Welfare Act.

- As a result of a lawsuit brought by AAVS and AWC, the USDA is subject to a court order to complete rulemaking to protect birds nationwide, as required by the Animal Welfare Act. This means that, for the first time, birds exploited in commercial industries regulated by the Animal Welfare Act, particularly in exhibition and breeding for the pet trade, will be provided species-specific standards of care and treatment.
Birds and the Animal Welfare Act: What You Should Know.

– AWC responds and provides verbal input to the USDA Listening Sessions, as part of the required rulemaking process, and provides extensive written proposed standards of care for birds. AWC’s recommendations are also endorsed and submitted on behalf of the Humane Society of the U.S. and AAVS.

- After a 23-year legal effort by animal protection groups and a successful lawsuit brought by AWC and the American Anti-Vivisection Society, there are now official legal protections for birds exploited in the pet trade, exhibition, breeding and some types of research. For the first time, these birds are now afforded species-specific welfare standards under the Animal Welfare Act.