500 exotic birds in East Bay backyard cages leave officials struggling for solution – The Mercury News
Authorities in Alameda County are struggling with what to do about an estimated 500 tropical birds being raised in ramshackle cages in a Castro Valley backyard.
Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office says neighbors complained about the noise, smell and flies coming from the yard, and authorities discovered about 500 parrots, macaws, conures, cockatoos and other exotic birds being kept there, along with egg incubation equipment. The owner apparently has been breeding and selling the birds for at least two years.
“We just want to do what’s best for the neighborhood, the owner and the birds,” Kelly says.
Sheriff’s officials will meet today with several county agencies and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss what laws and county codes might have been violated and what to do about the birds. Kelly says instead of having agencies individually going out to the house in the 5700 block of Jensen Road in Castro Valley, they are going to try to handle everything at once.
The owner is not cooperating with officials, Ray says, and is refusing authorities entry to the home and yard. Officials aren’t anxious to confiscate the birds, Ray says, because they lack the facilities and expertise to care for them, but they had hoped to have experts come out to check the health of the birds.
The birds have access to food and water, but experts are concerned that they have not been socialized and would not be good candidates for adoption.
Tropical birds have been popular pets for sometime, but they remain wild animals. To make good pets, they must be socialized right out of the egg, taught to be handled by humans and to interact with them. Otherwise, they can be dangerous.
Neighbors told officials they rarely see anyone out with the birds.
The problems in the upscale Castro Valley neighborhood began about two years ago, neighbors say. Recent complaints led the sheriff’s department to start the investigation about a month ago.
The noise from the birds is amazing, Kelly says. “It sounds like you’re in a tropical rain forest.”
Beyond the noise issues is the odor. That many birds produce a lot of droppings, which appear to have accumulated on the site. The birds also have created a serious fly problem.
Neighbors say they can’t open their doors without a swarm of flies coming in. Spending time in your yard is impossible, Kelly says, as you can see the flies buzzing around windows.
This doesn’t appear to be a case of animal hoarding, Kelly adds.
“We’ve had animal hoarders,” Kelly says. “We had a guy with 25 Chihuahuas. He loved every Chihuahua, he wanted every Chihuahua and he wasn’t selling them.”
The owner’s daughter, Yna Pham, told NBC Bay Area news that raising and selling birds is her mother’s hobby and that it has helped her through a rough divorce. The birds are being advertised on Craigslist, but Pham told the news station that the larger ones are more difficult to sell because of the higher price.
A check of Craigslist show an assortment of parrots and other tropical birds for sale in the Castro Valley area, ranging in price from $650 to $1,600.
There are laws that regulate the number of pets people can have, and for bird breeding, a permit is required. Kelly says he doubts a permit would be granted for an operation this large on a property that small.
Officials are hoping to work with the owner to reach a resolution that will work for everyone. That would mean the woman would need to sell most of the birds or the animals would need to be rescued and adopted, although Kelly wasn’t aware of any group that could handle that many large birds.
“This is quite a predicament,” Kelly says. “We’ve run into all sorts of animal control issues, but we’ve never had anything like this. I don’t think anyone has. If she was raising a few birds, probably nobody would have cared. But 500?”