Letter 20: Cruelty to pet
dear zebra finch friend,
what do i do for my bird well hears how it all started we went to this picnic and when we came home i found out that my baby cousins were messing with my bird and her leg broke i feel bad now what should i do im scared that she mite die or be hurt please can you give me some advice when you get a chance can you write back and tell me what i should do. Sincerely,
p.s please help!
what you tell me about your little cousins' atrocity sounds like a nightmare to me. I hope they have received more than just a scolding, but that doesn't help the poor Zebra Finch it would only help the poor female if there were a danger of a repetition of the deed. What can you do apart from pitying the bird?
First you need a precise diagnosis:
- I understand that one leg is still OK, and one is broken, which means the bird can still survive and need not be put to sleep.
- I do not exactly know where the fracture is: Is it below the heel (the joint which many non-ornithologists consider the knee)? In this case a loss (perhaps amputation) of the foot would hamper the bird when alighting but not make a bird's life impossible. A fracture above the heel and near the trunk however would no longer enable the bird to normally rest on a perch and would thus be a reason for euthanasia.
- Are you absolutely sure the leg bone is broken? Sometimes a leg "only" gets twisted in the knee or heel joint so that the lower leg or foot is no longer properly attached and eventually stiffens in an unnatural position. This can also happen after a fracture.
- To be absolutely sure about what happened to the bird I recommend seeing an animal doctor who has specialised on birds.
By way of therapy you don't have many options:
- You can leave the bird alone and hope for a self-healing process. In cases of minor injuries this can be the best way of dealing with such a patient. It may not be easy, though, to decide whether the bird should stay in a special hospital cage for a time or not, or how long it should stay there before badly wanting to be back with the others and becoming too nervous.
- If the doctor sees a chance of successfully treating the leg, please ask him/her to do it by all means: skilled medics are often able to set a broken or dislocated bone in a splint which just consists of either a matchstick or a (more or less) right-angled corner from a plastic bottle or other plastic object and some adhesive tape. The leg is likely to remain stiff, but an expert bird physician will choose a position which looks natural and doesn't hamper the bird too much. He/she will ask you to come back to have him/her rid the bird of the cumbrous splint.
- Whatever you want to do by way of therapy, do it at once: Treating a bird cannot wait! Birds both die and revover quickly due to their physiology.
Lauren, I wish you all the best for your Zebra Finch,