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Home > News & Events > MAARSianChronicles > Issue 13: August 2005 > Volunteer Spotlight: Jaime Pajak, DVM: Taking A Road Less Traveled

Volunteer Spotlight


Jaime Pajak, DVM, offers her dedication and knowledge of avian medicine as a Volunteer Shift Manager and member of the MAARS Board of Directors.

Jaime Pajak, DVM: Taking A Road Less Traveled

by Dr. Jaime Pajak, MAARS Director, with Eileen McCarthy

Jaime has been a MAARS Volunteer Shift Manager since the fall of 2001. She graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine in June of this year; at that time she also joined the MAARS Board of Directors. I talked with Jaime at-length last week and there is no doubt that MAARS, birds, and reptiles are very fortunate to have her as a veterinarian and advocate!

How did you first find out about MAARS?

I first found out about MAARS while surfing the internet looking for local animal rescues. I have always been interested in birds, so I thought volunteering with MAARS would be a great way to learn more about them — and WOW, it has been!

In your opinion, what is the most important avian welfare issue?

There are many important issues surrounding avian welfare: longevity of parrots and the abbreviated attention span of humans; over-breeding; the lack of education provided by retailers; the complex emotional needs of parrots…

But, in my opinion, the most important issue surrounding avian welfare is the farming of birds — poultry in particular. These birds are not given adequate enclosures, are kept in extremely cruel and unnatural environments — unable to move, perch or scratch — and are over-stressed for egg production. They are mutilated both physically and genetically and are kept in conditions where it is standard for them to be covered in feces, their feet growing around cage wire, extremely over-crowded, and often debilitated. In many cases, humans do not believe that chickens feel pain, fear, or misery, or believe that chickens' physical and emotional experience is comparable to that of humans. This has created horrifying scenarios.

The human population as a whole needs to be persuaded to face the facts of the modern agricultural industry — most of us don't want to think about how a chicken patty becomes one and it is very difficult to get people to listen about issues they can't bear to hear about. Truly, many people who are not animal welfarists believe ignorance is bliss, or that they can do nothing to change how things are, so they continue going along with their lives thinking nothing of the creatures they take advantage of every day. As Albert Schweitzer said, "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight."

What have you gained from your involvement with MAARS?

So much! So many friends — both feathered and un-feathered— a better understanding of parrot behavior and ecology, as well as avian medical care. I was also very inspired when first volunteering at MAARS to start my own non-profit animal rescue, Iguana Relocation Network. I have modeled my rescue as much as possible after MAARS. I personally believe that the way MAARS works is an ideal rescue model.

On a personal level, what has allowed you to make and keep your strong commitment to MAARS?

I felt I never really fit in anywhere; my opinions are almost always in the minority, as are my interests in avian and reptile medicine! At first, my commitment was selfish: to learn about birds. Over time this began to be much more important: I became a guardian of the MAARS flock. Every time I go to The Landing, I feel truly appreciated, even if I was just a tasty finger morsel for a disgruntled parrot! Another factor that played into my dedication to MAARS was my frustration in school, learning about "production animals" and other topics to which I object on moral and ethical grounds. MAARS has always been a light for me, a way to pursue what was and is most important to me: the welfare of animals.

Who are the people, birds, and other animals with whom you share your life?

I live with my significant other, Christian, who is a very wonderful man. Without him, I never would have gone to veterinary school, adopted my first iguana, or even had a roof to put over my own head — let alone all the animals that have passed under it. I am forever indebted to this man who encourages me to follow my dreams, no matter what the cost.

Our first iguana, Khloris, has been with us since 1999; in 2001, a Green Basilisk, Dargonesti, followed. The first addition to our new household four years ago was Hugo, a black Great Dane; he is the best snuggler in the universe! Shortly thereafter I fostered Aurora, a Timneh African Grey, and she soon became a permanent flock member. I started fostering iguanas a few months later, and that turned into a non-profit iguana rescue. Over 20 of these fascinating lizards have visited my home for extended periods in the last few years. Shortly after I began fostering iguanas, I permanently adopted Oscar, a male iguana.

Then I fostered a blind, wild-caught, Congo African Grey named Oscar, who had been in a breeding facility. Unfortunately, Oscar was only with us for a few months. He died of a terminal, untreatable disease that left me devastated. At that time, I decided to quarantine Aurora for two years before introducing another bird to my home. In the meantime I adopted Viscount Xavier Motat Pajak (a.k.a. Motat the Rat). He is an absolute joy and loves to tease Hugo. Believe it or not, I waited another year-and-a-half before adopting the newest member of our flock, Falcor (a.k.a. Barney and Buzzard), a Brown-headed Parrot. He is a feisty, tiny little thing with a huge set of lungs! Every day I am reminded how fortunate I am to share my life with all of them.

Editor's Note: The same day this issue of MAARSianChronicles was published, an article about Jaime's Iguana Relocation Network appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Click here to read "For the love of iguanas, she changed her life" by Bob Shaw.

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