An estimated 50 exotic parrots were found dead mid-March at a bird rescue and sanctuary in Snohomish County, Washington, according to Snohomish County Animal Services (SCAS).
The parrots were found at Cockatoo Rescue and Sanctuary in rural Stanwood, owned by the late Lori Rutledge. Several social media posts indicate that Rutledge may have had a terminal illness which could have played a role in the deteriorating conditions at her sanctuary and her inability to care for her animals.
Records obtained from SCAS illustrate the following timeline:
On March 12, at around 7:41 a.m. emergency medical services (EMS) responded to a call to Rutledge’s home for a fall victim. Firefighters had to push open the door to Rutledge’s home because there was garbage blocking it. They found Rutledge living in disgusting conditions.
Video footage from inside Rutledge's home:
Rutledge told first responders she had been lying on the floor since the day before and she said she was just able to get to the phone to call 911. First responders got her off the floor, checked her blood sugar and brought her a sandwich. They found two parrots and two dogs–a chihuahua and a great dane–inside the home with her. They brought her dog food and offered to feed and water her dogs and her birds but Rutledge said she had fed them that morning. When they replied that she had been lying on the floor since the day before, Rutledge said she had someone else come in to feed them. Rutledge refused to go to the hospital, so first responders left.
Video footage of the view from Rutledge's front door:
On March 13, at around 1:30 p.m. EMS again responded to Rutledge’s house. Rutledge told officials that she fell again and her great dane kept knocking her down. Records indicate Rutledge’s great dane was aggressive toward responders so they locked the great dane and the chihuahua in a bedroom. They asked Rutledge about the dogs in her bedroom and if they could feed and water them and she said she called her friend to come take care of them. They asked about the birds again and she said she fed them. They asked how she could feed them if she was on the floor and she got defensive and said her friend fed them. Rutledge gave officials the name “Jennifer Larm” as the person who comes and feeds the animals for her but she had no phone number for Jennifer. Rutledge was transported to the hospital.
Snohomish Fire Captain Gino Bellizzi walked outside and found about 12-15 carport style cages with about 50 dead birds inside. Documents indicate the birds were in an advanced state of decomposition and all that was left of them were feathers and feet.
Photographs taken by SCAS:
On March 14, animal control officer Paul Delgado received a complaint from EMS about the conditions at Rutledge’s home. Delgado met with a caseworker for Rutledge and the pair spoke with Rutledge in her hospital room. Rutledge would not give the caseworker the name of the person who was caring for the animals. She said it was a male caring for the animals but she could not remember the name of the caregiver or would not give it. She repeatedly refused to let an officer enter her property to give food and water to the animals there. Rutledge stated a woman named Melissa was caring for the animals but she would not or could not provide a last name and telephone number.
Delgado left the hospital room and drove to Rutledge’s property and spoke with a neighbor. The neighbor said no one was allowed on Rutledge’s property and they only saw people dropping off donations, deliveries or birds at the gate and no one was allowed in. The neighbor stated that they had troubles in the past with the noise from the birds but the birds stopped making noise sometime in the past year and now for the past several months they have had a rat problem and they think the rats were coming from Rutledge’s property.
Delgado secured a barrier tape and notice around the gate of Rutledge's property so that he would know if anyone entered the property to care for the animals. He returned to the hospital and again asked Rutledge for the contact information for the person responsible for taking care of the animals. Rutledge said that maybe the contact information was in her wallet, however it was not in her wallet. Delgado again asked if he could enter her property to care for the animals and Rutledge declined. Delgado told Rutledge he would get a search warrant to enter the property and she said she understood.
On March 15, Delgado returned to Rutledge’s property to check the notice he left and he found the notice undisturbed and the barrier tape unbroken, indicating no one had entered the property to care for the animals there. Delgado noted that he didn’t hear the dogs barking despite making noise to alert them of his presence.
On March 16, the surviving animals had been alone in Rutledge’s home for 69 hours, records indicate. Delgado obtained and executed a search warrant at Rutledge’s property and confiscated two dogs and two cockatoos. One of the cockatoos was dead at the scene.
Video footage of the surviving cockatoo after being removed from Rutledge's home:
On March 19, Rutledge passed away. A family member told Delgado that they had last seen Rutledge around Thanksgiving and they had talked to her a couple weeks ago but they had no idea of the situation at the sanctuary or her health issues.
A relative adopted Rutledge’s great dane. SCAS confirmed that the surviving cockatoo and the chihuahua were adopted into new homes.
The circumstances surrounding the tragic death of the birds at Rutledge’s sanctuary may never be fully known. The family posted a statement about Rutledge’s death on her Facebook page.
“Lori dedicated over 30 years of her life to loving and caring for these birds, she lived every moment devoted to them,” they said. “This is a tragic loss for all.”
Download full documents below
Cockatoo 1 medical records:
Cockatoo 2 medical records: