Rhode Island Parrot Owner Asks Lawmakers to Allow Birds at Campsites

Over the last few years, camping has become an increasingly popular activity among Americans; in 2013 alone, we spent an incredible 516.6 million days camping combined.

But for Rhode Island native Tom Wharton and his beloved cockatoo Tootsie, enjoying all the benefits of camping has largely been impossible. After receiving complaints from other campers, two campsites forced Wharton and his feathered friend to leave.

“My poor cockatoo has to stay home alone in her cage and it’s just not right,” Wharton told the Associated Press.

To better accommodate regular campers like Wharton, Rhode Island legislators are considering changing its laws that currently only allow dogs and cats to join their owners at campgrounds throughout the state.

Rep. Joseph Trillo, the bill’s sponsor, said he introduced this legislation after Wharton contacted him. The Warwick Republican added that fish, hamsters and other less-common companion animals should be allowed to enjoy the outdoors with their owners.

“That’s why we have to do it pet by pet,” Trillo said. “It’s really nonsense legislation we shouldn’t have to be doing to correct commonsense decisions.”

On Thursday, June 11, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed Trillo’s bill, which will permit up to two birds in the parrot family per campsite as long as they stay within their owner’s RV or camper.

Wharton, 69, a camping enthusiast, hasn’t taken his 21-year-old cockatoo camping with him in several years, though he used to bring her along on camping trips regularly. While Tootsie would occasionally venture outside his 31-foot Airstream, she never made any noise, he said. Wharton never realized bringing a bird to a campground violated state law until two local campgrounds asked him to leave.

“I feel bad she has to stay home. She loves to ride in the car. I take her to music festivals,” Wharton said.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Trillo’s bill received bipartisan support in the House. Warwick Democrat Joseph Shekarchi, the bill’s co-sponsor, said he supported the bill because he himself is an animal lover.

Before the bill can be enacted into law, a companion bill will have to pass the state Senate.

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