PETA is calling on a Cockeysville retirement community to let its pet finches spread their wings and leave the cage.
The animal rights organization, which alleges the birds are being kept in inhumane conditions, is urging its members to contact the management at Broadmead. The retirement home says the animals are well cared for and are a highlight for residents.
PETA first raised concerns about the birds a decade ago, said Dan Paden, a senior researcher at the organization. A Broadmead resident complained to management this spring, Paden said, and the group got involved again.
"The animals are still locked up and displayed like trinkets," Paden said. "We'd like to give these birds a chance to stretch their wings and to live like birds instead of like ornaments."
Broadmead Associate CEO Thomas Mondloch said one resident complained about the finches in recent months, but most enjoy having them. The birds live in the community's nursing home area where many residents are physically or mentally impaired, he said.
The dimensions of the glass box in which they are held are about 5 feet by 3 feet by 5 feet, Mondloch said, and it's equipped with "perches and branches and little nests." Broadmead has kept finches for at least 15 years.
"We think that this is an important experience for our residents. They enjoy it," Mondloch said. "We certainly do not believe that we are putting ... the finches in an unhealthy environment."
PETA believes the animals would be best served in a much larger "enclosed patio or porch aviary," Paden said. Among the organization's concerns are the birds' diet, the size of the aviary and the amount of attention they get, he said.
"They need an environment where there is much more ventilation," Paden said. "No box is going to meet the birds' needs."
PETA says Broadmead is not meeting animal-care guidelines developed by Eden Alternative, a nonprofit that seeks to improve quality of life for people in long-term care.
Broadmead has reduced the number of finches from about 10 to seven in recent months to give them more room, Mondloch said. He said Broadmead staff members feed the finches and representatives of Robin's Nest Aviaries visit weekly to ensure the birds are healthy.
Broadmead employees have assembled a work group to discuss the issue, but Mondloch said the community is not considering getting rid of the finches.
"We're not interested in ending this because we think that the interaction between animals and people is a very important part of everyone's life, or many people's lives," he said.