Some time towards the end of July 1996, I was working late on my computer and heard on the TV that a “spot” was coming up shortly regarding a woman who was rescuing birds. My ears pricked up; I shoved a tape in the VCR and managed to tape the spot.
What I saw was a woman whose house had absolutely beautiful cockatoos, macaws, cockatiels – some in cages, others free on T-stands, some outside on what appeared to be the carport. And all were obviously well-cared for creatures. The problem appeared to be a neighbor who was taping the cries of some of the birds, and who had made complaints to the City of Edmonds (a suburb just north of Seattle, Washington.). The tapes were to the effect: “This tape is being made at 10:04 am. on blah blah date …. (some bird cries heard) – This tape now ends at 10:06 a.m.”
This got my dander up, especially when it was reported that not only was the woman, Lori Rutledge, facing charges that included heavy financial fines and jail time, but also possible destruction of her birds. I immediately, ripped off a post to one of the bird lists I belong to describing what I had seen and asking if anyone had further information.
The very next day I had several responses, one from a woman who knew Lori and said she was one of the folks who years ago had gotten Lori started in her bird rescue operation. She said Lori most definitely was desperately in need of help, and gave me Lori’s telephone number.
I had a long chat with Lori – long necessarily because this poor woman has gone through over a year’s worth of persecution by the City, much too long to post here but a full review of all her travails can be viewed in a sister article. Very briefly, every time Lori proved she was NOT in violation of a law, regulation, or citation, the Prosecutor would “change” the charges to something else. The criminal violations she is now facing *do* include destruction of these protected exotic birds because they are the “instrument of the crime” (creating noise).
I asked Lori to inquire of her attorney what I could do, using the Internet (she doesn’t have a computer), to help her and her case. Her reply from him was to ask folks (bird lovers, bird keepers, and aviculturalists) to write to the Mayor of Edmonds, explaining what the typical bird does in terms of cries (morning wake-up calls and evening good-night calls), that they do NOT cry out incessantly all day long, and that the City was planning on destroying exotic birds which are protected by International treaty!
I made posts to the bird lists I belong to, and asked that they also be forwarded to other lists. It created quite a huge response – and a bit of a furor on the CITES list, where some more vitriolic folks responded that birds should not be kept as pets at all, but should be let go (not a very reasonable response for rescued birds who couldn’t survive in this environment). I did not get to see many of the letters that went to the Mayor, but I do know that they came from all across the world – Africa, Australia, etc.
The date for Lori’s first pre-trial hearing was rapidly approaching when I received an E-mail from a gentleman in England who was very interested in helping, but was afraid his snail-mail would not arrive on time. He wondered if there was a fax or E-mail address for the Mayor. (MAJOR DUH!! ON MY PART! Why hadn’t I thought of that?) The next day I inquired of the City, found their WEB page and the mayor’s E-mail address and posted them. The result was SUCH A FLOOD OF E-MAIL that –
When Lori and her attorney appeared at the pretrial hearing, the first words out of the Prosecuting Attorney’s mouth to the judge were to request that he instruct the defendant’s attorney to tell his client to quit flooding the Mayor’s E-mail box with letters supporting Lori’s position. Lori’s attorney responded that she did not have a computer, had no access to one, and had no control over what others might choose to say, write, or express their opinion about over the Internet.
It was becoming apparent that the Mayor (who may have further political aspirations) was beginning to realize how ridiculous the City of Edmonds was beginning to appear in the eyes of the world.
Lori stated that it appeared that the City was beginning to perhaps look for a “graceful” way out of the whole situation. The trial was once again continued, to November 5 (Election Day??? Any significance in that?). I do know through the trickle of E-mails that were forwarded to me personally that there must have been many more that were mailed. Thank you so much to those of you who responded!
I am just so surprised and elated over the interest and action that can occur through the use of the Internet. The laws are becoming so confusing, intertwined and controlled by hundreds of differing agencies, that it’s hard to keep up and stay aware – take a look at what is happening now in Oregon!