Many veterans are now turning to birds as therapy or emotional support animals thanks to Parrots for Patriots, a program that pairs abandoned birds with veterans in need. Birds are helpful because they provide routine and responsibility that some veterans -- especially those who have post-traumatic stress disorder -- feel they lack after leaving service, founder Chris Driggins said.
"With PTSD or any other type of mental disorder, your life is a little confused," said Driggins. "Birds demand normalcy, and certain birds are very needy. They help you fall into a pattern -- get up at this time, give me a treat at this time, give me TLC. Then you find yourself in a normal routine again...There are so many things that birds can do for you that no other animal can."
Parrots also live longer than most other pets, such as cats or dogs, which partly explains why there are so many abandoned birds, said Driggins, who also runs Northwest Bird Rescue.
Driggins has placed around 90 birds -- many of them neglected or abused -- with veterans since launching Parrots for Patriots in 2015.
"Pets give me something to do," said David Haro, a Navy veteran suffering with PTSD. "Animals are non-judgmental. They're there in your dark times and in your good times. They love you unconditionally."