House of Horrors: ‘Aviary was atrocious’

Rhode Island Parrot Rescue helps birds in Weston

Rhode Island Parrot Rescue worker with birds recovered from 82 Newtown Turnpike in Weston.

Rhode Island Parrot Rescue worker with birds recovered from 82 Newtown Turnpike in Weston.

Upon her arrival at 82 Newtown Turnpike, last week, Corrie Butler said she was overwhelmed by the “cloying, suffocating stench of death and decay.”

Butler and a team of volunteers from Rhode Island Parrot Rescue arrived at the Weston home on Friday, Sept. 16, and removed more than 100 exotic birds to take back to their headquarters in Warwick, R.I.

The day before, Weston officials had found hundreds of birds, snakes, and reptiles, both dead and alive, inside a home and aviary outbuilding on the property. Rhode Island Parrot Rescue was called in to help.

Butler, the Rescue’s facility manager, said the smell was so bad in the two-story aviary that the team had to wear full isolation gear and respirator masks. “The floor was littered with debris, old cardboard boxes, broken down pieces of equipment, open bags of rotted bird food, and clutter,” she said.

The walls and ceiling, she said, were covered with “thick bands of spider webs” that coated the rescue team from head to toe as they entered and exited the building with arms full of carriers containing birds of all shapes, colors and sizes.

The team sorted through the “dessicated corpses” of many birds, in an effort to identify them. A number had decomposed quite a bit. “Amidst the corpses were the remains of what can be described as more beak than body of one bird,” she said, adding that the bird was possibly a toucan.

She said a number of boxes were covered with feces, seeds, droppings, and mites, and were “crawling with insects that no amount of wiping could begin to remove.”

The floor, she said, was covered with at least three inches of “foul, unidentifiable urine soaked refuse.”

Canvas bags marked “Uptown birds,” were scattered throughout the building. The name on the bags may possibly have been a reference to the property owner’s former business, a pet shop located on the upper west side of Manhattan.

On the second floor of the aviary, Butler came across hanging, mesh cages which she said were filled with malnourished, starving birds coated in droppings and refuse.

Erica Collins, media coordinator for Rhode Island Parrot Rescue, called the situation “heartbreaking” because parrots are “beautiful, intelligent and emotional creatures.”

“People don’t realize how intelligent exotic birds can be,” Collins said. “You should have seen their little faces looking out through the carriers as they were brought inside.”

She said volunteers receiving the birds in Warwick became extremely emotional as they unpacked the impoverished creatures. They immediately assessed their health and put them in clean cages filled with food and water.

“At the end of the day it really took a toll on us,” she said. “If you saw the conditions the birds were living in you would be sick in the pit of your stomach,” she said.

Altogether, Rhode Island Parrot Rescue took in 130 birds from Weston. Quite a bit more than the facility is used to accommodating. Collins said they usually have up to 40 birds at any given time.

To ensure public health and safety measures are followed, the rescued birds are being quarantined for at least 30 days, Collins said.

To help with the substantial veterinary costs and care of the birds, the group is accepting donations on its website, riparrots.org Click on the tab marked “donate & wishlist.” Donations should be marked “Weston Birds” so they are applied to this case.

The public can keep track of the birds by visiting riparrots.org and the Facebook page — Rhode Island Parrot Rescue, where the group gives frequent updates about the birds.

Editor’s Note: The property at 82 Newtown Turnpike, Weston, is owned by Daniel Kopulos, a New York City pet shop owner.

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