When we receive an application, it is reviewed by each of us and one member of our Board of Directors. We review it individually and then discuss it together. We have minimum adoption requirements, which are posted on our website (I recently dedicated a separate page for that list). If an applicant does not meet each of those requirements, they are typically denied immediately. In these situations, the decision is very straight forward and simple to make. And we usually include the reason for denial in our decision email, which is sent immediately.
Our list of adoption requirements are the minimum standards that we set forth, but applicants can be denied for other reasons. There are a number of “red flags” that cause us to take pause when considering an applicant. When these issues arise, we discuss it together and typically question the applicant further before making a decision.
There is one question in particular on our application that often has a great impact on our decision. Other rescues may not choose to share that information, but our goal is to place parrots in good homes and we know that some people are just not very good at expressing themselves succinctly. There are a number of questions that will “tip us off” to someone who may not be an ideal candidate and after years of doing this in combination with a process that has proven to be highly effective, we feel confident that we spot those less than ideal candidates fairly easily. So, I am willing to share a bit of insight on this one question.
“What characteristics of a parrot are most important to you?”
I'm going to pull the curtain back a bit here. We've gotten some pretty unique answers to this question and frankly, this one can make or break you. I wouldn't say it's a trick question, but we feel it requires some time and thought. Those that obviously took that time provide answers that are encouraging. Those that don't usually end up with a denial.
One very common answer is “talking”...in other words, they want a parrot because having a talking animal is cool. And we agree! We regularly laugh until we cry about some of the things that come out of our bird's beaks! Talking parrots are delightful and so much fun. Teaching a bird to talk is pretty amazing – especially the ones that can mimic your voice. I have a young Blue Fronted Amazon that I've raised who says, “I love you.” in my own voice...and I LOVE that!
However, this answer is a big fat red flag for us. If this is the only questionable answer on an application, we will generally overlook it after some conversation with the applicant, but when it's combined with some other concerning answers (which it most often is), the applicant is almost always rejected.
These applicants often ask this question and unfortunately, they don't often seem to understand our position, but it goes like this...
In any relationship, each individual has their own expectations. When these expectations are met by the other person, the relationship works out. When expectations are NOT met, things go wrong in a hurry. Homeless parrots are an epidemic and there are a number of reasons for that, but one of the biggest reasons is that people buy birds with an expectation of what it will be like and find out that the reality looks nothing like what they imagined.
We know that a number of parrot species are fantastic talkers (African Greys, Amazons, etc.), but we also know that each bird is an individual – as unique as each human being. This means that even an African Grey may never utter a single word. Even a parrot that was previously a great talker may never say a single thing in a new home. There is never any guarantee.
So, what that comes down to is that someone with expectations that do not always align with absolute reality is bound to be disappointed. Alan and I (and our Board) take our job very seriously. Each of these birds has been entrusted to us and that means that we are ultimately responsible for their quality of life going forward. We are absolutely committed to doing everything possible to ensure that they get the kind of home and life they deserve. We will never spare the feelings of a human being at the expense of a bird...and we will always err on the side of caution.
With that being said, we also do our best to remain open-minded and make decisions based on fact rather than personal feelings. We often give people a chance to better explain their answers in cases where we have concerns. Our goal, again, is to place these parrots and we make every effort to do so in good faith. In addition, just because we might deny an applicant does not mean that we feel they are bad people or bad pet owners.
The last applicant we denied asked us to explain further and she responded, asking us to reconsider. Because we are always willing to do so – especially when asked in a polite and reasonable way – and we read what she had to say. We did end up making the same decision, but we did try to make it very clear that we felt she was a sincere animal lover and would quite possibly make a great home for a parrot – just not one of ours in her current circumstances.
In conclusion, we take no pleasure in rejecting applicants. In fact, with every application we receive comes a great deal of hope that one of our parrots is about to meet their human soul mate. When we do deny someone, it is not done so lightly and it certainly isn't done based on trivial judgments. We are always willing to reconsider and have someone apply again if their life circumstances have changed in such a way that they will be better able to meet the needs of a parrot. Finally, nearly every application we receive is clearly from someone who truly loves animals...and parrots, in particular. We recognize that just taking the time to visit our website and fill out the application shows that their interest in giving a parrot a good home is genuine (in most cases). When we thank each person for their interest in a CBH bird and for taking the time to go through the process we've implemented, we are sincerely grateful. We also genuinely hope that each application will introduce us to the next member of our CBH family.