Interview with Jacqueline Johnson

by Emily August 5, 2013

DSC_0489When we tour facilities and gather data, I am able to get a lot of fascinating information from the facility owner that may not make it into the database, simply because of the nature of the data we are collecting. I want to allow readers and fans to follow our experience and get some more personal information about each facility, so we will be conducting short interviews with each facility we visit. I hope this will give you better insight to each facility.

Emily: Best Friends is located in Kanab Utah, a fairly small town not directly close to any large city. What do you do to offset the unique challenge that this offers for adoptions?

Jaqueline: Because we are so remote we do not limit our adoptions to a specific geographical area.  We have adopted birds to people from California to Maine, and even into Canada.  Because we have Best Friends Animal Society members all over North America, it is easy for us to arrange a home visit in any community.

Emily: When answering my question about number of yearly adoptions and adoptions for a five year period, you also gave additional information about the dramatic increase in the number of adoptions that has happened in recent years. Can you tell readers about that?

Jaqueline: The fact is that a person can walk into a pet store and buy any bird they can afford without worrying about proper diet, husbandry or enrichment. If we treat potential adopters with distrust or judgement, we are driving them to just go purchase a bird.  When an adopter comes to the sanctuary to meet the birds it is our job to assess where they are at regarding parrot care knowledge, and then educate to get them where we would like them to be.  Bottom line – we want to adopt to people who want to adopt from us.  They have spent a lot of money and time getting here to meet the birds.  It is our job to prepare them to adopt.  Because we do constant follow-ups we can use that as an opportunity to continue educating adopters. And we make ourselves available for any question, any time.

Emily: A reader has a question about the No More Homeless Pets Campaign – she says “Hi my avian rescue is a part of the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network but it seems to be geared towards cats and dogs. How can our birds benefit from this partnership?”

Jaqueline: While Best Friends works, on some level, with many different animal species, our primary focus is on cats and dogs, since they make up the vast majority of animals dying in shelters. The opportunity for birds to benefit is to take the targeted thinking, the messaging strategies, the need for data and measurement etc and apply them to your understanding of what leads to bird homelessness.

Emily: Best Friends staff does a lot of continuing education. Can you offer some ideas for smaller rescues that want to keep their staff up to date on avian information?

Jaqueline: Network with other rescues, join in bird discussion groups, and follow Dr. Scott Echol’s podcasts to keep abreast of new developments.  We also have a program where one staff member will research a topic/species/behavior and then present the finding to the rest of the staff.  Each staff member is responsible for 2 presentations per year. This is a method of increasing everyone’s knowledge base, with little or no cost.

Sign up for Dr. Susan Friedman’s Learning and Living with Parrots (LLP) class.  There is a 2 year waiting list, but the information will change the way staff interact with parrots.

Emily Strong has written an amazing booklet called the Bird Owners Manual.  It is available for free on her website:  http://www.oldworldaviaries.com/text/pdfs/TheBirdOwnersManual.pdf

Parrot Enrichment.com also has two incredible books available for free download.  We offer this information to every visitor to Parrot Garden.

And finally, there are some excellent Facebook parrot sites.  Two of the best are Parrots Pantry and Feathered Angels.  You will find some of the latest information regarding diet, husbandry and enrichment.

Emily: Can you tell us about one of your current residents? Everyone loves a heartwarming story

Jaqueline: Crystal is a Blue & Gold macaw with congenital birth defects. Her feet don’t work and she holds her head upside down. One ear is not formed properly. For many years she lived at a vet clinic in the eastern part of the country. She was one of several birds who had been abandoned there over the years. She was a favorite of the staff who loved and spoiled her. Unfortunately, when the vet who owned the practice died of liver cancer, the clinic was sold to a corporation. When the new owners came in they insist the birds all leave. The smaller birds were quickly placed in new homes. But the owners were horrified by Crystal, and didn’t believe that she could be happy in such a twisted body. They thought the kindest thing to do would be to euthanize her.  The clinic staff didn’t agree.  They knew and loved Crystal and believed she was a happy bird.  Eventually the staff took up a collection and paid for one of the techs to fly Crystal to Best Friends. She is slowly settling in and her personality is beginning to shine. Crystal is a perfect example of how quality of life does not depend on a perfect body. (And this afternoon she was hanging from the top of her cage by her beak…typical macaw!)

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