Local woman plans to make home for unwanted pets

By Theresa Java

Jenifer Dermer envisions a place where parrots fly, forage for food and bathe. They flock together and socialize and they’re happy. Dermer dreams of a parrot sanctuary, a place for all unwanted and neglected parrots in Key Largo.

Last week, the county permit for her sanctuary at MM 99 in Key Largo came through.

“Parrots have the intelligence of a two-year old,” said Dermer.

According to Dermer, parrots are smart, social and emotional animals. In the wild, parrots are energetic, community oriented and have life-partners. When domesticated, they do get emotional and difficult to understand, not to mention, they’re messy. Often, the parrot becomes aggressive or will scream all day or even pluck its feathers. This is when neglect, abuse or re-homing options surface for most bird owners.

Others in the Upper Keys see a need for a facility like Dermer is proposing.

“We get a decent amount of parrot rescue inquiries. I would say about 10 a year or so,” said Kayla Gainer, rehabilitation manager at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center. Although the bird center can treat injured parrots, it really doesn’t provide long-term care. That doesn’t stop people from trying though — recently a pair of parakeets was surrendered to them, “just left at the door.”

Parrot manager at Theater of the Sea, Virginia Bowen said, “Yep, every month or every other month people ask us to take a bird in, so there is a definite need for a rescue.” Bowen said she refers most cases to the closest facility — Rainforest Clinic in Loxahatchee.

Mike Stanley, a local avian expert, said that he too is approached every other month to foster a parrot. In the last year, he said he’s taken a dozen or so.  

Stanley said, “People fall in love with these colorful creatures, then within five years, the honeymoon is over and they give up on the whole thing.” He continued, “The bird is strongly emotionally attached to its human and when they go away, it’s devastating to them.”

This is Dermer’s second stab at operating a parrot facility. In 2009, she operated the World Parrot Mission at MM 99. She left for West Palm Beach for a while, and now she’s back and wants to start again. She said she aims to begin by showcasing her own parrots and put together an educational program. As the sanctuary grows, she plans to provide a place for unwanted parrots and teach classes to humans.

“People who love birds are different, they’re a different kind of person, it takes patience,” she said.

For more information, contact Dermer at 305-453-1800.

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