Local & State
The Bellingham Herald

Thursday, November 15, 2001

Couple takes unwanted birds under their wing

PETE KENDALL HERALD PHOTOS

NEVER A DULL MOMENT: Betsy Lott (above) and her husband, Nate, have 129 feathered friends living with them. Pinkish Mollucan cockatoos Sofia (above left) and Tiki love the attention they get from Betsy, who says they may not make the best of pets because they are "a very high maintenance bird." The couple runs Lotts of Love Avian Rescue and Adoption, a nonprofit agency that comes to the rescue of exotic birds. Their feathered family includes parakeets, cockatiels, lovebirds, a Senegal, conures, Amazons, an African gray, macaws and cockatoos.

NORTH COUNTY: Nonprofit agency nurses birds back to health, places them in adoptive homes.

Macaws Baxter and Jeffrey keep the agency full of life.


Jim Donaldson, The Bellingham Herald

When Nate and Betsy Lott moved to Everson from California last month, they packed up their van, their motor home - and a chartered bus that carried about 100 parrots, macaws and parakeets.

The couple runs Lotts of Love Avian Rescue and Adoption, a nonprofit agency that takes in exotic birds from owners who no longer want or cannot handle. The Lotts nurse the birds back to health and either find homes for them or add them to their own expanding flock.

"If it's a less than desirable bird, we offer sanctuary for him or her," Betsy Lott said. "Some birds just don't have the personality people want. They are wild, they don't want to be tamed and they will bite, really badly."

Potential adoptive homes must pass a rigorous application process, including home visits and bird care classes. The Lotts also make follow-up visits to foster homes, and they refuse to allow breeders to take the birds, to prevent more unwanted animals from being born.Right now, most of the birds are in the sanctuary class - and they're taking up most of the couple's 4,000-square foot home on eight acres near Everson. The farm has three outbuildings that the Lotts hope to eventually turn into outdoor aviaries. The Lotts are converting a two-car garage into a quarantine facility, a "clean room" where new birds are kept until the couple can be sure they carry no infectious diseases.

Betsy Lott quit her job as an administrative assistant for a Silicon Valley computer company to devote her time to Lotts of Love. The agency currently works with a parent company, Midwest Avian Adoption and Rescue Services, but Lott plans to file for her own 501(c)3 status - and become the only parrot adoption agency in Washington state.

Nate is a database administrator who works for a Chicago-based company.

Though a 1992 import ban prevents exotic birds from being brought to the United States, resident breeders and the long lifespan of some breeds - larger birds like cockatoos and macaws can live 60 to 100 years - keep pet owners well stocked.

Many bird owners don't realize what they're in for when they buy their first bird, however, Betsy Lott said.

"Parrots are the No.1 impulse purchase in the country," she said. "It's easy to understand why people do this. The birds are usually young and fluffy and they've got these big, dark eyes that look at you like you're a god."

Information

Lotts of Love Avian Rescue and Adoption, a nonprofit agency, is in need of volunteers, foster homes and used newspapers to line its bird cages. To make a donation or for more information, call 966-7490, send e-mail to betsy@parrot-rescue.org or visit their Web site at parrot-rescue.org.

Though the birds can live as long as an adult human, they act like 3-year-olds their entire lives, requiring constant care and attention, Betsy Lott said.

"I tell people they have to be willing to make the same level of commitment as they would adopting a special needs child," she said. "They always need fresh food and water, their cage needs to be cleaned, they need toys to play with and regular visits to the vet."

Lott said pet owners couldn't go away for a weekend and leave out extra food, the way one might for a cat or dog. More than likely, the bird will dump out the food, take a bath in its drinking water and then be left without either for days.

"They're a lot like children, and you wouldn't leave a 3-year-old at home in the closet for a weekend," she said.

Betsy Lott took in her first birds in 1991, when she noticed a neighbor taking a small cage out to his front yard. "Being nosy, I went over there and said 'What pretty birds you have. What are you going to do with them?' Well, he was going to open the cage and let them go. This was in October.

"I said 'Don't. I'll take care of them.' It was an instinctive thing."

Within a few years, the Lotts had a half-dozen birds and began taking in birds that has been abused or neglected by owners. Their business exploded this year when, in the first four months, the Lotts took in 37 parakeets, 14 cockatiels, eight lovebirds, six finches and a canary. About half have been adopted out.

"It did not get bad until the past two years. It's kind of a late '90s prestige symbol, having a bird, and then they started getting rapidly dumped (by owners)," Betsy Lott said. "We don't need any more birds. These birds already have had a hard life."

Reach Jim Donaldson, Hometown editor, at jdonalds@bellingh.gannett.com.

Reprinted from Bellingham Herald - Thursday, November 15, 2001

 

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