We all remember Hedwig—the endearing and adventurous owl who was a loyal companion of Harry’s. And for some, admiration for this lovable character inspired them to get their very own Hedwig. Whether they thought that an owl would make a cool friend or just an alternative to traditional mail carrying is unclear, but what is clear is that most of them soon changed their minds.
The Mirror reports that across the U.K., hundreds of owls bought as pets by avid enthusiasts of the Harry Potter series are being abandoned. Some are being dropped off at bird sanctuaries. Rescue worker Pam Toothill said, “Before the films were out I had six owls, now it’s 100…people saw Harry’s owl in the movies and thought how cute and cuddly they looked. Now they are bored and fed-up with all the work involved.”
Other owls are being illegally released into the wild. Animal activists fear that the owls could starve or take over territory already inhabited by smaller wild owls. It is perfectly legal to keep a pet owl in the U.K. and no license is needed, however, anyone caught releasing a captive owl faces jail time and a hefty fine.
So, why did so many of these Harry Potter fans have a change of heart? Well, for starters, people got bored with their owls. Basing your expectations for what having a certain kind of pet will be like on fantasy novels is not a recipe for success.
In addition, people failed to properly educate themselves on the amount of work it takes to raise an owl. These birds can live for 20 years, and there’s a significant amount of care and cleanup involved. And owls need lots of room; said Toothill, “Owls need enough space to be able to flap their wings five times before landing back on a perch, or they get a chest infection.” We’re not talking your average birdcage here.
J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter, has begged fans not to get an owl simply because Harry has one. “If anybody had been influenced by my books to think an owl would be happiest shut in a small cage and kept in a house, I would like to take this opportunity to say as forcefully as I can, ‘you are wrong’,” she said.
She went on to say that, ““If your owl-mania seeks concrete expression, why not sponsor an owl at a bird sanctuary where you can visit and know that you have secured him or her a happy, healthy life.” We think that’s great advice. Always remember that pets are not toys—and that Harry Potter is not a good source to base life decisions off of.