by Martin Dunphy on July 14th, 2017 at 7:04 PM  Georgia Straight

A Vancouver veterinarian has been honoured with a national award for her part in the rescue of hundreds of exotic birds, including several species of parrots.

Anne McDonald, owner of Kitsilano’s Night Owl Bird Hospital, received the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Humane Award in Charlottetown, P.E.I., Thursday (July 13) at the CVMA’s annual meeting.

“It is honouring to be recognized for this work by my colleagues,” McDonald told the Georgia Straight by phone from the Maritimes on July 14. “And it is an honour to do this rescue with these birds.”

The birds, including African grey parrots, macaws, and cockatoos, needed help after the February 2016 death of Wendy Huntbatch, the founder of the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs, B.C., on Vancouver Island near Parksville.

Huntbatch, an animal-rights activist who had operated the refuge since 2005, spent decades caring for unwanted parrots and trying to educate the public about why the birds should not be imported as pets or held in captivity. After money to run the refuge ran out, McDonald and the Lower Mainland’s Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary went to work to help the birds, many of which were in ill health and required hospitalization.

“Basically, it [the refuge] fell into disrepair, and the owner died, and it was costing $50,000 a month to run—it was a bad situation getting much worse,” McDonald said.

McDonald and Greyhaven found someone willing to temporarily provide a building scheduled for demolition that was “made usable for the birds”, partly through donations from Lush and PetSmart Canada that enabled the rescuers to fill the space with cages for the 586 birds they ended up moving from Vancouver Island.

“It’s been really expensive and just a huge amount of work,” McDonald said. “We have spent over $700,000 in medical care for them all.”

The rescue partners have been adopting out the parrots since last year and have found homes for about 400 of the birds. McDonald said they are careful to screen potential adopters with a home visit and they make sure would-be caregivers have the resources and knowledge necessary to house and feed the large birds, which can live in captivity for four to five decades.

“A lot of these birds are over 20 years of age,” McDonald said. “They’re really birds that need a good home.” She noted that an adoption fee helps cover some of the estmated average $1,000-plus spent on each parrot, “although the fees are less than that.”

She said that even though African greys are her favourite parrot, she adopted an individual of another species that required special care. “I adopted a really lovely Amazon parrot named Lily.”

McDonald said she expects it will take “another year to a year-and-a-half” to finish her task. “We have something like 170 birds still to place.”

Anyone interested in adopting a parrot should visit the Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary website for more information.