For the love of this bird
Animal advocate says bird should go to good home;
staff says bird already has one
by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

The Benicia-Vallejo Humane Society has come under criticism,
all over this small lovebird, and their decision not to adopt it out.

The fate of a well-loved lovebird was the subject of a contentious meeting Tuesday of the usually non-controversial local human society.

A contingent of the lovebird's self-appointed advocates attended the meeting to appeal to shelter officials to allow the bird to be adopted.

Keenan Guernsey of Vallejo said she discovered the bird on a trip to the Benicia-Vallejo Humane Society to discuss a sudden die-off of stray cats in her neighborhood. She offered to adopt the bird but was told the facility's staff had already done so.

"The bird needs natural light, exercise, a friend, and it's the height of

selfishness for the staff to say they're keeping it in these heartbreaking conditions because they like to hear it cheep in the mornings," Guernsey said before the regular monthly Humane Society board meeting Tuesday. Guernsey said she'd contacted several animal-loving friends and clients to help her convince board members to "do the right thing" by the bird. She's also contacted national animal rights groups like PETA, she said.

"They're concerned, but right now they're too involved with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina," Guernsey said. "But I'm going national with this if they don't do the right thing."

Humane Society director Peter Lepley said the lovebird, who the staff named Chico, was rescued from a Vallejo tree about 18 months ago. No one wanted to adopt it at the time, so the staff did, he said.

"We had another lovebird for about four years, named Chica, who died five months ago," Lepley said, adding he and the shelter staff care for the bird and believe it's happy and healthy.

"We've talked to an avian specialist who says the bird is completely happy and has developed a bond with the staff and they with it," Lepley said.

Lepley said the shelter's staff has adopted other otherwise unadoptable creatures, as well.

"We have two cats, Stella and Emma, which have lived at the shelter for a number of years," he said. "They are wonderful ambassadors for how great cats can be. We have two other birds who flew in here on their own - one came in August and the other just today."

Shelter volunteers Kris Conely and Marsha Duffy said they resent the implication that Chico is being abused in any way.

"These are good-hearted people and when they take on a pet they take it on for life," Conely said. "They bust their rears day in and day out, and everything we do is to help the animals. The staff loves that animal."

Duffy said she's seen Chico regularly for nearly two years and believes him to be doing fine.

"He's sitting under a window, and has plenty of natural light. A variety of vets see that bird, and they know that bird is not being mistreated," Duffy said.

Guernsey's contingent isn't buying it.

"The bird should be in the home of someone like Keenan, who has a cage five times the size of the one he's in now," said Vallejo business owner Phil Kukuruza of Napa.

Guernsey insists the Humane Society "is here to serve the animals and not for the animals to serve them." She said she fears Chico will die if not rescued.

"The right thing to do is to let someone adopt the bird," said Scott Borba of Walnut Creek. "Now you have to look into your heart and decide if you're going to do the right thing."

Board members said they'd take the group's concerns under advisement and make a decision by next month's meeting.

"I don't know what the board will decide, but I hope they'll talk to a specialist and have the vet look him over, and see he's fine and let us keep him," Lepley said. "It's uplifting to have him here. He considers us his flock."

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.