SCOTLAND’S only parrot behaviourist is locked in a bizarre dispute with insurers – to stop them killing her precious birds.
Elaine Henley’s home was damaged in a fire but thankfully her pet parrots – Roy, Milo, and Sparky – were rescued by neighbours.
Insurance firm Direct Line insist on paying to clean rather than replace smoke-damaged fabric and leather sofas worth £5,000 and curtains and cushions worth £800.
But Elaine, from Dalry, North Ayrshire, says the cleaning materials will leave her with three dead parrots.
All species of parrot are extremely sensitive to the fumes from many commonplace chemicals – even non-stick cookware. And the fumes from the cleaning chemicals hang around months and even years.
The row, which has been rumbling on for six months, has involved Elaine, 45, in an estimated 360 phone calls and left her feeling as stressed as her avian clients.
Elaine is a registered clinical animal behaviourist, specialising in treating distressed parrots, and charging up to £125 per session.
Her home, which she shares with her husband and two teenage sons, was hit by a fire that started in an electric socket in September, resulting in smoke damage to much of the house.
Elaine was out at the time but alert neighbours broke in and rescued the parrots from her living room after spotting smoke billowing from an upstairs window.
But now she says her Congo African Grey parrots Roy and Milo, and Timneh African Grey Sparky, could die from the chemicals that Direct Line wants to use to clean her damaged furniture.
She said: ““I sent them the list of avian toxins and all the things that would kill my parrots. If you use these chemicals they become impregnated into the fabric.
“When you have parrots you have to think of them as a highly allergic child. I know as a parrot behaviourist that these chemicals would kill them
Elaine said the chemicals can build up toxins in the birds’ livers, kidneys and digestive systems. They can cause tumours in as little as two months and up to two years later.
She added: “The fumes would build up – it’s a cumulative effect. Parrots are also known for eating your furniture. Milo had already started to chew the couch.
“You can’t use Teflon, scented candles, air fresheners, or cleaning products.
“Even if you’re frying an egg the fumes can kill your parrots. “
Direct Line stated in a recent letter: “There is no physical fire damage to the sofas and this is the reason why replacing them isn’t warranted.
“Cleaning has been suggested but you’ve refused this because you feel the products used for cleaning will be harmful to your parrots. Your policy clearly confirms we’ll decide either to pay for the cost of repair or replacing the items.”
Elaine’s parrot Roy made headlines last year after he was rescued from a garage. He had refused to stop squawking the name of his owners late wife Sarah – in front of his new partner.
The 27 year old bird was nursed back to health by Elaine after becoming so stressed he plucked out nearly all of his feathers and had to be given Prozac.