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Pet bird owners in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize were taken aback by the actions of members of Belize’s Forestry Department as they raided private homes and confiscated pet birds from loving families after they had announced they would not be taking away the pets from anybody. At the end of the raid, one man was arrested and pet owners sympathized with the traumatized family worrying if their pets would be taken from them.

Brian Halliday was trying to keep members of the Belize Forestry Department from taking his two pet birds, one being a Cockatoo and the other a Macaw, that the family had been taking care of for over 20 years and had grown very much attached to. They were, in fact, cared for like a member of their own family. But officials from the Forestry Department arrived to their house accompanied with police officers ready to confiscate the family’s two exotic birds.

What followed was a battle for the Halliday family to keep the birds in their homes, something that the members of the Forestry Department were not going to allow as they have indicated that the Halliday family did not have proper documentations for keeping them as pets. Brian Halliday was arrested as he tried to reason and talk with officials and he claims the other members of the family were ‘roughed up’ by the police officers in the process.

Pet Bird Owners in San Pedro Taken by Surprise and Furious at Forestry Department

Halliday Family pet birds confiscated by Belize Forestry Department and Belize Bird Rescue

It was a very traumatizing situation for the Halliday family who are now left with an empty cage and also an empty heart, as their life-long pets have been taken from them. Last week, Forestry Officer Victoria Cawich, along with personnel from Belize Bird Rescue, was on the island on an education session and during their presence at the Reef Radio Morning Show they clearly indicated that they were on the island to continue the licensing process of parrots and not to confiscate any of them.

“We know some people here in the island own parrots and one, it is illegal to have them,” commented Victoria Cawich, Forestry Officer, Forestry Department, at the Reef Radio Morning Show. “But because we recognize that a lot of people have these parrots, so we are here to issue the licenses.”

Cawich stated that they do an inspection of the bird and its cage after residents apply for a license. If the license is approved, the bird is branded so that everybody knows that the bird is legal.

“We have been on the island in many occasions to see people who already have parrots and most of the times people feel we are here to remove the parrots, but we are not here to remove anyone's parrot unless they are not in healthy conditions or if they are in a dire state," concluded Cawich at the Morning Show.  

The Halliday family says that she wasn't so understanding or reasonable when she visited their home and that none of the unhealthy conditions existed for her to justify removing them for their own safety. The Forestry Department says that the Halliday’s birds are not native to Belize and so it is illegal for the family to keep them. That is their reasoning for confiscating the birds.

Edward “Eddie” Halliday says that they are just very upset at the manner the officials conducted themselves by just barging in their homes as if they were criminals, man-handling his family and not properly handling the birds as they were being confiscated.

Pet Bird Owners in San Pedro Taken by Surprise and Furious at Forestry Department

Brian and Eddie Halliday with their pet Cockatoo and Macaw

Pet Bird Owners in San Pedro Taken by Surprise and Furious at Forestry Department

Brian Halliday with pet Cockatoo

“They took away my rights to protect what was rightfully ours,” stated Brian Halliday, son of Edward. “They claimed they were smuggled and after handing over proper copies of documents for one they still took them away. They know the rightful thing is to give back the animals but their pride won’t allow them because they would then be the laughing topic of this nation. They abused of me and my rights regardless if it was just for two birds. They took away my freedom of speech and right to protect what is ours. They trespassed into my property; wait they came into my property illegally, no court order. A part of the act says the only way I should have been arrested was if I was hiding my true identity or my home address.”

According to head of San Pedro Police, Brian Halliday was arrested for obstructing the officers in confiscating the birds and that he was behaving in a disorderly manner and resisting arrest. They did not see any abuse of authority as the Halliday family claims.

According to Cawich, they had a few reasons as to why they confiscated the Halliday’s birds. While the cage had ample spacing, she indicated that it was messy and that the cage wiring was beginning to corrode. She stated that the cockatoo seemed to be suffering stress indicated by it flipping around his perch and the plucking of its belly feathers. The birds were confiscated from the family and transported to a rehabilitation facility at the Belize Bird Rescue (BBR) Center on Thursday, July 31, where they will be treated and returned if proper importation and exportation documents are presented. Cawich indicated that Mr. Halliday has presented documentation that proves that the cockatoo was not poached and was legally sold as a pet, but did not have any papers proving that the bird was brought into Belize legally. When he does so, the Halliday family can have its pets back.

Ambergris Today also obtained a bird license application document from San Pedro resident Lisseth Mazariego whose two parrots were also confiscated from her just weeks after she submitted her application. Mazariego stated that the officials just came and took her two yellow head parrots claiming that they were too young. She has not heard from the Forestry Department and is wondering if she will get her pets back.

Pet Bird Owners in San Pedro Taken by Surprise and Furious at Forestry Department

Belize Forest Department's Captive Wildlife Application Form

With the rest of the bird pet owners in the island community concerned about their pets, Cawich informs residents that this particular confiscation of the Halliday family’s birds does not relate to native parrots of Belize. All parrot owners should proceed with the registration process so that the Forestry Department can assess the situation and make the proper recommendations so that the pet owners can obtain a proper license to own the birds.

Registration forms are available at the San Pedro Public Library and also online with instructions and care standards (Click Here). The Forestry officers will return to San Pedro on Thursday, August 14, and Friday, August 15, 2014 to host the presentation seminar that was indented for last week. 

Visit the Belize Bird Rescue website for more information. www.belizebirdrescue.com

Click Here for More News on Ambergris Today Online

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Dorian Nuñez

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