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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — An automotive service station with exotic birds for sale is ruffling some feathers.

Complaints from people range from the birds being kept in hot conditions to too many of the animals in one cage.

The outside of Barrett’s Service Station in Shallotte gives the appearance of a simple car service business. That is until you walk into the office. There, we found dozens of birds, including some not in cages, while others, the babies, were kept in plastic boxes with towels covering the tops. There was no air conditioning in the room on a day reaching 88 degrees.

“They’re babies,” said a man named John who works there. “Would you put your baby in air conditioning?”

Susan Barrett, who is no relation to the service station, specializes in exotic bird rescue with the Clemmons-based group NC Shelter Rescue. She saw pictures of the birds and was appalled by their living conditions.

“I don’t know of anyone, even bird breeders that I know and don’t necessarily care for, I don’t even see them go to those measures,” Barrett said. “Most keep them in incubators if they’re babies, but not just in shoe boxes with towels over top of them.”

Barrett has filed a complaint with the NC Department of Agriculture, NC Department of Health and Human Services and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

John didn’t have much to say when we asked what he would tell someone who think it’s an unsafe environment for the birds and the people working there.

“Well, show me how it’s unsafe,” he said. “Tell me.”

We also received a complaint from a viewer who visited Barrett’s recently and says she finds the birds’ living conditions very alarming.

John said he was unaware of any complaints about the conditions. To our knowledge, none of the agencies Susan Barrett has filed complaints with has so far investigated.

Comment on this Story

  • Mel Amos

    Apparently the person complaining knows nothing of raising exotic birds…The birds are from a tropical climate and the heat is normal for them .And as for toxins and pollution the birds in Central Park in New York get more toxins and pollution…I have bought birds from them and they are healthy and happy. the guys are professional and would never put their birds in a situation the was bad for them..They have been providing car services for me for years . They are a great asset to the community..Thank you guys for being here!!

  • MelAmos

    I used to raise exotic birds long ago.. Birds are used to being in tropical heat. The Heat at the station is very safe for tropical birds. As for the toxins and pollution ,the birds in Central Park in New York city get more pollution and toxins.. The breeders are professional and love their birds.They would never put the birds health at risk. I have bought birds from them and they are healthy and happy..People love playing with friendly loving birds while they wait for professional service on their cars..Apparently the people complaining do not understand exotic birds and how to raise them. The community appreciates these guys and all they do for us…

  • anna

    I am sorry you feel that one business is trying to hurt another. I am aware of the birds at Barret’s Gas Station.The concern I would have as a bird owner myself is the toxins that the babies/ birds are breathing.This is not good for the welfare of the birds.People need to do their homework on how to care for birds/parrots.

  • Amanda

    I moved to The Shallotte Area two years ago with the company I work for.I have owned birds for 25 years. I visit Barretts quite often for supplies for my birds and to see the new babies. Always have been kept clean and beautiful birds. I have also visited Sunset Birds were the Birds were very taken care but owner had a very nasty attitude towards me after mentioning Barretts. The person making claims on keeping baby birds should do some research on keeping birds.. Is this One business trying to damage the reputation of another?

  • hulon grissett

    Who the hell is this woman to be criticizing John. I have known John for years and he loves those danged birds. It is different and I don’t see him with unhealthy birds. They seem to grow and do well. I see them everyday.

    John is a hardworking struggling self employed man. How dare someone cause him harm. Sounds to me like someone could not pay for their gas or repair bill. John knows more about those birds than anyone I have ever seen.

    What is wrong with you people?


  • corinne alvino

    Ok,for all the folks out there who “assume” the birds are FINE,here are the facts,yes tropical birds do tolerate the heat,however,they also bathe and seek cooler sheltered areas when it is very hot doesn,t sound as if they do that in a garage,also birds confined don,t tolerate filth,or an unhealthy diet,also when was the last time they we,re seen by an Avian vet?ESPECIALLY since he is breeding and selling them?I have been in Avian rescue for over 10 yrs,I m a certified aviculturist and a Nurse for 38 yrs,This is not an appropriate place to have ANY animal

  • E. Frye

    Everyone wants to be an expert about something I guess. Brunswick County residents (not all) just love to gossip and get into someone else’s business especially when they are in the same “business”. Anything to draw attention away from themself.

    John Barrett’s is a good person and would not misstreat anything or anyone, especially those birds. The birds are after all a part of his income. Ask yourself why in the world would anyone do something to jepordise their own lively hood? They woulden’t. John takes better care of those birds then he does himself.

    So to all you so called bird loving experts out there…fly away and tend to your own nest and stop being so jealous of your neighbors !

  • Gustafo

    I’ve been in there (as of yesterday and today) and the birds are fine. I’m an avid animal lover and would report someone in a heartbeat if I thought conditions were unsafe. I live on the water and I’m still seeing baby swifts peeking out of their man-made gourd homes. I imagine those don’t have air conditioning either. Birds are part of nature, and part of nature means you adapt. These birds are “tropical” meaning they are used to the hot climate. It’s amazing at how small some people’s world are that they would actually take the initiative to make a complaint about this hard working man. Every time I go by he’s busting his butt and sweating to make a living. ….and then along comes a bitter person looking to ruin someone’s day/business.

    I’ve bought tires and gas from Jonathan and will continue to do so. I would just like to remind everyone he has non-ethanol gas.

  • Guest1234543

    I’ve been using Barrett’s for years, even before he started raising birds, in there a couple times a week with my truck and my boat, and I can tell you those birds are well cared for and healthy, these 2 women are full of “HOGWASH!!!”
    They both must have an axe to grind or have either failed at raising exotic birds, they need to get a life and out of other peoples life.

  • Janie WIthers

    I stumbled into Barrett’s Gas Station recently and was shocked at the conditions these birds were in. Who would expect to see so many birds, crowded into filthy cages at a gas station? Gas and oil are toxic to birds. Birds that should be beautiful, plucking themselves, babies in plastic shoe boxes and cages thick with bird droppings on old newspaper. Little different than the way dogs and puppies are kept in a puppy mill! Filth is a danger to the public. The humanity of what he is doing is offensive and a health hazard. If a child touched such filth and became ill, disease could be taken into day cares, schools and churches. After I left his gas station, I made a point to visit another exotic bird store in Sunset Beach. The birds there were not crowded into cages. There was no filth in the cages. There were no birds plucking their own feathers out due to stress, filth and poor conditions. A gas station is no place for these beautiful birds. They deserve better. This may not be against the law in North Carolina, but it should offend people. It certainly did offend me! Thank you WWAY for exposing yet another cruelty. How can humans be so selfish and uncaring?

  • anna

    I have to agree w/ the person’s that are concern about birds being keept & raised in a Gas Station. Birds can die &/or become very sick that are being exposed to toxins.Gas, oil, chemicals are very dagerous to birds.They can even kill them in time if not right away in the early stages of thier life.As a human when a bird is purchase they should know at home you are not to sprays , air freshners, scented candles ETC….even a persons colonge or perfume can make a bird sick.As far as the plucking matter it could be caused from the toxins they are exposed to & just poor conditions. Birds are suppose to be keept as clean as possible & in the larges cage you can afford to put them in.YES !!!! If a child or human touches dirty cages & put their hands near their face or a child puts their hands in their mouth they can become sick.Now about the baby birds…Baby birds should be keept in a controlled heat brooder due to their digesting of their food.Hand feed should be given to them at a certain temp.& if the baby is to hot they will use all their energy to stay cool & not be able to digest the food properly.If the baby is to cold it works the same way.YES !!!! Exotic birds are tropical BUT if conditions are not met to help them keep cool in controll of a human they are in danger.In the wild birds know how to keep themself cool & even in the rain forest they have means to cool down.I believe this is a bad stituation for the birds & our community.

  • Guest Vader

    Not a bird person, but it would seem that “exotic” birds would be those native to warm to very hot climates. I would think that air conditinoing would be detremental to their health. If the birds are doing ok, leave the man alone. Always somebody who thinks they know everything to cause somebody trouble.

  • Lillian

    Once again, someone sticking their nose in someone else’s business. These are TROPICAL birds, they like the heat. What’s the difference between an incubator and a box with a towel over it, both keep the draft out, which will kill them. I have seen first hand, the guy loves his birds, leave him alone. Go check out the living conditions of some of the children in the county!

  • Wilmington Observer

    I’m sitting in my back yard, where it is, currently, 89 degrees. There are numerous birdhouses in the yard; many in the direct sunlight. Birds have made a home of every (non air conditioned) bird house. Some of these birds have been coming to my back yard for years. Birds, like humans, don’t NEED air conditioning, us humans have just gotten lazy and accustomed to having the artificial environment at our disposal.

    When our weather turns cool (in the fall of the year) why do you think many of the area birds travel south? The prefer (and in many cases, require) the warmer / hot climate in order to be comfortable and survive. From the way this “report” describes the living conditions, it sounds as if this man is raising these birds in an appropriate environment. It may not be all shinny and pretty for some of us spoiled and lazy humans but he is raising BIRDS, not humans.

    Wilmington Observer

  • Meghann Doughty

    I think people should mind thier own business. I’ve been to Barrets and seen his birds. They are well taken care of and not in any way in bad conditions. Anyone who knows anything about baby birds should know they have to stay hot, either in a warm room, under a heat lamp, or in an incubator because if they catch any draft or chill they will die. So he’s keeping those babies in exactly the right conditions. So the supposidly exotic bird expert needs to do her research!

  • Guest45

    So you say, I say you are just a meddling old person with nothing better to do than stir the pot, John loves those birds and cares for them well. It’s past your time to kick back and smell the rose’s.

  • Anna

    I will agree w/ Corinne 100%.

  • Amanda

    I guess Everyone should have a pet store that smells of rat and mice sure that much more healthy. Bird owners should do there homework and go check out the birds for themself and make your judgement from there!!

  • corinne alvino

    Sorry to disapoint I,m far from old,just really smart,and way too smart to engage anyone,who thinks LOVE or money equals good care for birds or any other living thing,and thanks I am enjoying my healthy life with my happy,healthy well cared for flock of 24,takes alot of hard work,dedication,and knowlege to do it the RIGHTway

  • Guest2020

    So, you have been out there and seen those birds for yourself? If not, then you have no more right to judge the issue than the amateurs who have seen the birds. Unless you have examined those birds, yourself, then you should not accuse someone of not doing it the “RIGHT” way, and you should not accuse someone of letting the “LOVE or money” coming before the welfare of any living creature.

    Also, if you are going to claim to be “too smart to engage anyone…”, then you should try to use proper grammar. Otherwise, it lessens your argument.

  • Vog46

    “I have been in Avian rescue for over 10 yrs,I m a certified aviculturist and a Nurse for 38 yrs,This is not an appropriate place to have ANY animal.”

    And apparently you are WRONG corrine:


    Talk about having egg on your collective faces.

    Admit you were wrong and leave this man alone. He’s apparently a bird lover and does right by the animals.


  • Anna

    Amanda, don’t know who you are & don’t care. The difference w/ mice & rat smell in a PET STORE it is not harmful to birds . I am a PET Store not a Gas Station w/ gas, oil,toxic fumes, etc….You need to do your homework.I had nothing to do w/ the news report BUT I will defend my business.Have A Nice Day !!!!


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