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Notts charity warns against bird flue panic
Owners urged not to abandon pets amid fears of illness

Owners of pet birds are being warned not to panic and abandon their budgies, parrots and hens following confirmation of bird flu in the UK.

The Nottinghamshire charity Animal Accident Rescue Unit is urging people who keep birds to stay calm amid fears that panic-stricken owners will abandon pets.

“We are very concerned that people might see this as a risk to themselves and abandon their pets – but this is not an issue,” said Jon Beresford, a trustee of the AARU.

“Nationally there are already reports of pet birds being abandoned to fend for themselves, leaving it to stretched charities like AARU to pick up the pieces.

“We would seek to reassure bird owners that they should not get rid of their birds and if they are concerned about their pet or bird flu they should seek proper advice from their vet.”

Recently, tests confirmed that the H5N1 avian flu virus was present in a swan found dead in Scotland. A wild bird risk area of approximately 2,500 square km was established where keepers are now required to house their birds. It was decided against imposing a countrywide housing requirement, but bird owners outside the area have been instructed to maintain a high level of so-called biosecurity, and to follow Defra’s hygiene advice.

Jon Beresford said: “The advice from Defra is that avian flu is a highly infectious bird disease that affects many species, including commercial, wild and pet birds. However it is worth remembering too that there is no evidence that the virus can be passed from person to person.”

AARU operates an ambulance service throughout Nottingham-shire for sick and injured animals and birds. Any it rescues are then housed in the homes of volunteers across the county, where they are cared for until they can be considered well enough for rehoming or release into the wild. AARU funds the veterinary treatment of the stray animals it rescues.

Last year AARU rescued more than 250 birds. Most of these were wild birds but they included some domestic poultry and a number of pets including budgies, parrots and cockatiels.

Unfortunately the charity now has just two bird fosterers, and with spring their busiest time they are keen to avoid a massive influx of birds so they are extremely concerned that should owners panic and abandon their pets, the charity will struggle to cope.

For every animal and bird that is successfully rehomed or released, there are others waiting to take their place. AARU is an incredibly busy organisation and relies totally on its team of dedicated volunteers. It is currently looking for new phone operators, fosterers and drivers with the aim of providing cover from 9am to 11pm, seven days a week.

To become a volunteer or offer assistance with rescue work, contact Animal Accident Rescue Unit on 0115 9321 555.