The humane society in Columbus, Ohio, closed its doors to regular business on Tuesday and called in help from the ASPCA to conduct a large-scale rescue — removing more than 600 birds from one home.
The birds were found in an “extremely overcrowded 1,000-square-foot home,” the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said in a statement.
Exotic Amazon parrots, cockatiels, parakeets, finches, macaws and other birds were living in what the ASPCA described as unsanitary conditions in the house. Some of the birds had missing feathers and other medical problems, according to the animal welfare group.
“The population of birds is simply staggering,” Rachel Finney, CEO of Columbus Humane, said in a statement. “Overcrowding in this manner isn’t conducive to a high quality of life for the birds or their caretakers.”
Jessica Rushin of the ASPCA described how the birds were living in a very noisy environment. TV video showed cages stacked one on top of another.
“Overcrowding definitely stresses birds, so they’re very sensitive to changes in their environment,” Rushin told WBNS in Columbus. “So it’s a very loud environment. They’re very close together, which can be stressful for birds.”
Authorities did not identify the homeowner, but one neighbor who did told WBNS said she is national champion bird exhibitor.
“She was compassionate about what she did,” neighbor Martha Mumford told the TV station.
Mumford said neighbors didn’t know the woman had that many birds in her house and when she saw the humane society arrive she thought the number must be large. “It’s heartbreaking,” Mumford told WBNS.
Bobby Garcia, who lives two houses away from the home, told WCMH in Columbus she thought the woman had 100 birds and they had created a nuisance in the area.
“I think it’s crazy, it’s crazy,” Garcia told WCMH. “In the mornings I’ll come out and you can smell the strong odor of feces and then you’ll have the bugs.”
She told the TV station her granddaughter couldn’t play outside “because the bugs eat her up.”
According to WSYX in Columbus, an investigation into what was going on inside the home began with a public complaint about animal neglect, which led to a search warrant after the homeowner refused to let animal welfare workers inside the home.
“We are seeing some missing feathers, some plucking mutilation, things like that,” Finney told WSYX.
Local TV stations that filmed the removal of the birds showed some carried out in large cages and placed in U-Haul trucks, vans and a trailer by workers wearing protective clothing.
“It’s certainly the first time we’ve seen a case with this many birds. It’s the first time we’ve seen a case with this many animals, period,” Finney told WCMH.
The birds were taken to a temporary shelter in an unidentified location where Columbus Humane staff are caring for them until a court can decide about custody, according to the ASPCA’s statement.
No charges have been filed against the homeowner, WBNS reported.
“We are putting together a massive investigative packet for our prosecutors to review,” Finney told WSYX. “This is a really intensive process because we have to include information about the birds.”
People have been calling Columbus Humane asking how they can help the birds. On Wednesday the group posted on its Facebook page a list of things it needs for the birds, including walnuts in shells.