Parrot shelter's future up in the air

The owner of a shelter for parrots in Smiths Falls, Ont., has been given 60 days to decide on the future of the rescue, which violates residential zoning rules.

Smiths Falls bird rescue breaking rule limiting animals

Esther and other parrots at Feathered Haven Parrot Rescue are provided with veterinary care and eventually adopted out. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The owner of a shelter for parrots in Smiths Falls, Ont., has been given 60 days to decide on the future of the rescue, which violates residential zoning rules.

"We have to downsize. We're over the limit of pets per household. We may have to close," said Jill Woods, owner of the Feathered Haven Parrot Rescue. "We can apply to rezone, [but] there's no guarantee there."

Woods said there are currently 16 birds at the rescue. The legal limit for pets in a residence in Smiths Falls is four. She said she's considering seeking a trial exemption from the zoning rules, which would allow her to continue operating temporarily.

Noise complaint

Smiths Falls council issued the order following a noise complaint, which Woods said is the first she's had in 20 years.  

"The noise, I recognize, people might find it offensive," she said. "If they find it offensive we'll do our best to keep that down."

What's at stake is home-based rescues, and whether people want to admit it or not, there's a need.- Jill Woods, Feathered Haven Parrot Rescue

Woods said the rescue has taken in birds from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, and has helped find permanent homes for dozens, if not hundreds.

The birds that stay at the rescue have health or behavioural issues such as aggression or self-mutilation that could otherwise lead to them being euthanized.

A Smiths Falls parrot rescue may need to move, because it is not in sync with the town's zoning bylaws. 0:31

Smiths Falls mayor Shawn Pankow said council has been sympathetic to Woods's situation, but the current rules are clear.

"From a zoning standpoint there's nothing within our zoning bylaw today that would allow an animal rescue within a residential area," he said.

"Council is very understanding that this is a service that provides great value, but at the same time we have to be respectful of everyone's right to enjoy their property."

Jill Woods is the owner of Feathered Haven Parrot Rescue in Smiths Falls, Ont. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Woods said she wants municipalities to recognize the need for rescues like hers.

"What's at stake is home-based rescues, and whether people want to admit it or not, there's a need," she said.

Parrots can live a long time — at least two at the rescue are in their 50s — sometimes outlasting their owners' ability to care for them, she said.

"We get so many that are brought in and in improper care. They're in liver failure, kidney failure, which is very painful for them," Woods said. "There's just a lot to fight for."