31 macaws moved to florida
Orange County Animal Control Officers Virginia Strong, left, and Patricia Dahl transfer macaws into a Ryder cube van rented by Danny Ray and Sally Crosswhite to transport the birds to a facility in Florida. A court order returned 31 macaws temporarily housed by Project Perry, Central Virginia Parrot Sanctuary and Rescue, to their original owners, the Crosswhites, on Friday.
Posted: Saturday, July 26, 2008 5:55 am
By Bryan McKenzie, Media General News Service
NASONS — Thirty-one macaws seized by animal control officials from an Orange County couple in May are back in the hands of their owners and on their way to a Florida facility.
Volunteers at the Central Virginia Parrot Sanctuary in Louisa loaded the birds into pet carriers Friday morning and surrendered them to Orange County Animal Control officers at the county’s Humane Society headquarters, just outside Orange.
der a court order, the birds were given back to their owners, Danny Ray Crosswhite, 49, and Sally A. Crosswhite, 58, of Rhoadsville, for transport to Luv Them Birds in Loxahatchee, Fla.
If the Crosswhites pay the county court nearly $20,000 by Jan. 9 to defray the birds’ medical costs, they will regain custody. If the money is not paid, the Crosswhites will face jail time.
On May 12, animal control agents seized the birds from 28190 Old Office Road and charged the Crosswhites with 27 counts of cruelty and four counts of neglect. Officers said the animals were held under plastic tarps, susceptible to weather, and locked into small, rusted-shut cages with mounds of droppings beneath them.
The court agreement will drop all the charges and give the birds back to the Crosswhites once the money is paid.
On Friday, with a dozen protesters lining the access road to the Humane Society, the Crosswhites drove a rented box truck to the building and began assembling their own pet carriers to house the birds during the trip to Florida.Sally Crosswhite declined to comment on the charges, the seizure or the court agreement.
“We have nothing to say about that,” she said. “We’re just glad to have a chance to get our birds back. We’ve had them for years and I don’t see how people can say we don’t love them. We do.”
Orange County veterinarian Hillary Cook provided the birds with medical care during their two months at the Louisa sanctuary. She said the birds’ health appears to have improved.
“They all had something going on when they were brought here and they have shown definite improvement,” Cook said.
Matt Smith, the sanctuary director, said the birds also showed improved social skills and behavior.
“The birds have made a lot of progress in building relationships with humans and in gaining confidence,” Smith said. “It’s very difficult to see them go.”
Many sanctuary volunteers fostered the macaws at their homes. “She had as much freedom as I could give her,” Andrew Nielsen said of the bird he fostered. He staunchly opposed the decision that could return the birds to the Crosswhites.
Orange County court officials chose the Florida facility based on recommendations from the Denver-based Gabriel Foundation. The nonprofit works with breeders, sanctuaries, adoption programs and veterinarians to ensure birds are cared for properly.
The Crosswhites’ attorney and the court contacted the foundation.
“They asked if there were any [foundation-approved] organizations on the East Coast because bringing them to Denver was out of the question,” said Julie Murad, foundation president. “The closest was in Florida.”
Murad said the foundation was chosen because it has determined a standard of care for exotic birds. Luv Them Birds is owned and operated by Gabriel Foundation board member Kathleen Szabo, who has agreed to abide by the standards.
Murad said Szabo has built separate facilities for the Virginia macaws and that the birds will receive healthy foods and medical care and will not be allowed to breed.
The Crosswhites have agreed to pay $50 per month, per bird for boarding fees. There are no provisions in the court agreement that would reimburse the Louisa sanctuary or its volunteers for costs incurred in caring for the animals. The sanctuary has received no support from the county or the court.
Animal rights groups have criticized the Gabriel Foundation for its involvement on behalf of the Crosswhites, who have said the birds were once breeding stock but are now pets.
A national exotic bird breeders association set up a legal defense fund for the Crosswhites with donations accessible through an Internet site that criticizes the Orange County animal control officers and sanctuary