On September 9th, Palomacy received this message:
I am reaching out on behalf of my Grandfather who lives in Pacifica. He has had pet doves for several decades now and due to his age and situation, he can no longer manage caring for these birds. I need some options on what to do with 40-50 domesticated, healthy doves. Any help would be appreciated.
Palomacy volunteer and Pacifica resident Cheryl went to meet Andy and his doves and assess the situation on September 11th.
Andy had started out with a single pair of doves 40 years ago but with their breeding uncontrolled, now had 53 doves that he couldn’t properly care for. (Please- do not allow your birds to breed! There are too many captive birds literally dying for lack of homes. How to Prevent Breeding) The doves, though loved, were living in very rough conditions. They were stressed, overcrowded, living in a too small coop in air that burned with ammonia from years of accumulated poop. Cheryl assessed the situation, checked for eggs and young (there were none- the doves had become too stressed to breed), took photos so that we could collaborate to figure out a rescue plan, and reassured Andy that we would do our best to help him and his birds.
The following week, Palomacy volunteers Jill and Liese went to meet with Andy, rescue two bachelor doves we had openings for and talk about how Palomacy might be able to help. We were in a tough spot. Already overfull with 126 birds in our stretched-to-the-max foster care, Andy’s doves were in urgent need of rescue. They couldn’t be released to live wild- they are all domestic, with no survival skills, and predators, including crows, ravens, cats, hawks, gulls, etc. would massacre them. Andy was unwilling to surrender them to an animal shelter and, with a surrender fee of $25 each, doing so was cost prohibitive even if he had been. As rescuers, we often feel as if we have no choice but to somehow, someway, help those who no one else will.
Jill picks up the story: I was glad to help and asked my friend and fellow Palomacy volunteer, Liese, to come along with me. On September 18th, we went to meet Andy and his flock. We have two single lady doves in need of mates, Fava and Cathy, and wanted to rescue a couple of bachelors from this flock. Neither of us were prepared for the filth we experienced upon entering the aviary. The smell of ammonia was overwhelming. The birds were dirty and had given up any normal behaviors one would see in doves. There was no cooing, no laughing, no courting, no nesting, no defending their nests. They all seemed to be stunned and just surviving on what little seed was being thrown on the floor (which was covered in many years worth and hundreds of pounds of their own waste). They only had one small bowl with an inch of dirty water in it.
Trying to sex them was very difficult. They didn’t act like normal doves. They were too crowded and stressed to interact with each other. Liese and I felt the pelvic bones of a bunch, doing our best to determine gender that way. The last thing I would ever want to do was take a mate away from his beloved but I brought home two doves that didn’t seem attached to anyone and whose pelvic bones felt like males’.
We named the white one Oliver and the fawn dove Rooster. So far, no love match for Fava but she’s enjoying the dove company and it is adorable to see Oliver and Rooster coming back to life. They seem amazed to have so much space, choices, possibilities…
On September 23rd, Cheryl, Liese and I went back to the aviary to clean it out as best we could and pull as many doves as we had been able to inspire foster homes for. We caught all of them, placed them in carriers for safe-keeping and tackled cleaning the aviary. We wore masks and gloves. We hauled out hundreds of pounds of dove poop, along with rotten plywood. We hammered rusty nails that were sticking out of the shelving and walls. We scrubbed the walls and shelves.
We scraped the nest boxes. We put new boards along the floor. The smell was gone, the birds were all assessed and Palomacy took 24 more doves into our foster care, including the three medical cases (Bailey, Madison & Reese). We are straining to fit these doves into our care and we had to leave the remaining 27 there for now, (their circumstances greatly improved). Cheryl is fostering three, Liese is fostering two (Avery & Lucky LaRue), we’re housing four in our foster aviary at Andy’s Rescue Pet Shop in San Jose, Marin Humane Society in Novato is taking a pair to adopt out from their lobby, Elizabeth is fostering two, Kristi in Sacramento is taking in six, and I’m fostering five.
Our work is not done. We need to find homes for all of these beautiful doves- the 26 in our foster care as well as the 27 ‘sheltering in place’ in Andy’s now clean and well stocked aviary (which we will continue to visit and help care for).
The good news is despite their difficult predicament, these doves are super sweet and very adoptable. They are so responsive to attention and really appreciate all the loving care they’re getting. Please- help these little birds. Foster or adopt a pair or a flock! (We include a pair of fake dove eggs and directions on how to prevent breeding with every pair adopted! Learn more about Doves as Pets.) Apply here.
And please, donate to support Palomacy. Without your help, we can’t help the birds who need us. They are the innocents, at risk through no fault of their own.
We will keep you posted on this flock. We still have much work to do.