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Reporting Bird Abuse or Neglect

Bird neglect can occur anywhere birds are kept or displayed – from pet shops and private homes to roadside zoos and unregulated bird marts. 

Individuals who have witnessed a disturbing situation often contact the AWC to request assistance on behalf of birds living in substandard conditions.

While AWC has no legal authority to act on these reports, we are able to provide helpful resources that concerned individuals can use to take action!

What You Can Do!  

Try to develop a relationship with the bird’s guardian and provide him or her with educational materials.  Offering simple suggestions on proper bird care such as “10 Things to Know Before Adopting a Bird" can help to improve the bird’s living conditions and quality of life.

When this approach is unsuccessful, contact agencies that have the authority to intervene and to determine if any federal, state, or local laws are being violated. However, if a legal violation cannot be cited, there may be little that can be done despite the fact that animals are not receiving quality care. 

Often people are tempted to purchase an animal from a bad situation.  While this may end the suffering of that individual animal, it rewards the animal’s guardian, who may merely then obtain or breed other animal that will be similarly mistreated.  Carefully weigh these factors in making your decision. 

Do not disseminate your concerns or observations widely over the internet. This could end up undermining the efforts of humane enforcement agencies to undertake a thorough and effective investigation.

Instead, keep a detailed account of your observations, including photos if possible.  This will be crucial to building your case and demonstrating a pattern of abuse or neglect when contacting humane law enforcement authorities.

AWC offers the following guides to help you evaluate conditions in private and commercial situations:  Note: Items covered may not necessarily reflect legal requirements.

Evaluation Form for Investigating Caregivers and Pet Shops 

Guide to Identifying Abuse & Suffering in Captive Birds [pdf]

Know the Law

First, determine if birds are defined as an "animal" and are covered under the laws in your state.

Unfortunately, most states have minimal laws to protect animals like parrots and other birds. Birds are often excluded from animal welfare legislation and existing animal cruelty statutes, making it often impossible to define neglect, substandard care, and abuse, or to effectively enforce any existing statutes.  Currently, there is no regulation governing the breeding and sale of birds, though a USDA regulatory process to govern some commercial bird breeding facilities is pending.     

Moreover, animals housed in retail pet facilities are not afforded protection under the federal Animal Welfare Act.  In the absence of federal regulation, each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia has enacted its own unique animal anti-cruelty statute and 27 states have enacted laws that establish some form of humane care standards for animal kept at pet shops.  The quality, scope and enforcement of these laws vary from state to state.   Refer to this handy map of state pet shops laws for laws covering birds.

Few reported incidents involving substandard care of animals in commercial entities are actually investigated by humane enforcement authorities.  Often the conditions while cruel and inappropriate, do not actually violate any laws in the state where the facility is located.

Employees or other individuals who “don’t want to get involved” frequently report complaints. However, without their testimony or “proof’ in the form of photographs, videotape, or other evidence, situations can be easily covered up before humane investigators arrive. Even when violations are reported to law enforcement agencies, too few are adequately investigated or result in charges being filed. 

Research Animal Protection Laws & Statutes

For help with defining specific laws and ordinances that apply birds review these links:

Avian & Animal Protection Laws & Legislation

State Map of Pet Shop Laws Covering Captive Birds 

Review the following links to research laws pertaining to animal welfare in your state:

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) 

Animal Legal & Historical Center

Report Bird Cruelty & Neglect

Once you’ve determined that birds are covered and enforceable standards exist, contact your city or state humane authorities or other law enforcement agency responsible for investigating.  Check out:

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF)
What To Do When You Witness Animal Cruelty

What To Do If You Observe Poor Pet Store Conditions

Politely share your concerns with pet store staff or bring them to the attention of their management, and/or corporate headquarters.  Provide documentation of your observations.

If the store refuses to clean up their act, report the situation to your local humane enforcement agency.

Use this handy checklist to help you identify and document problems in pet shops, and to aid in reporting conditions to law enforcement authorities.

Note: Items covered in this checklist do not necessarily reflect legal requirements. Pet shop and anti-cruelty laws vary between states. Check your state's pet shop laws.

Report Health Related Issues

If you encounter a business, private situation, or pet shop, where birds or other animals appear to be ill or are being kept in conditions where sanitation, ventilation, overcrowding, or other factors occur which may jeopardize the health of the animals or humans, contact your local Department of Health. 

There are a number of viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases that may infect bird species and other exotics, some of which can be spread from animal to animal or from animals to humans. Animals kept in extremely close confinement are more susceptible to high levels of stress and illness. Use AWC’s handy guide to Evaluating Abuse & Suffering in Captive Birds. Note: Items covered in this checklist do not necessarily reflect legal requirements.

When the Law Is Not on the Side of the Animals

There will be times when no legal recourse to remedy the situation is available.  As distressing and unethical as conditions may be, avoid any temptation to break the law or use the internet to incite unlawful approaches to the problem.  This can undermine your efforts to help animals in the future and may even worsen the situation.

Don’t Give Up

Even if your efforts fail this time, make sure to leave a “paper trail” of the abuse or neglect and of your complaint.  This can aid in helping future efforts to succeed! 

Take Action!

Check out PETA’s Guide to Becoming an Animal Activist

Use Your Consumer Power to Stop Animal Exploitation.

Refuse to patronize any establishment responsible for the animal’s care and politely let the business owner know why you are doing so.  And encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same!