The Raptor Factor
As a result of information provided by PETA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service charged Charles Azzopardi with multiple violations of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act to which Azzopardi pleaded guilty. He was placed on six months’ probation, and an inspection provision was placed on his probation, granting state and federal officials the authority to inspect his facility. A $4,200 fine levied against Azzopardi was suspended.
Azzopardi illegally accepted and kept in his possession eight raptors, including hawks, falcons, kites, and an owl, all of whom are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The first birds our investigator documented were three young kestrels who had been brought to Amarillo Wildlife Refuge (AWR) by a local member of the public. While all three kestrels were healthy and able to fly, they were confined to one small cage filled with maggots, feces, and rotten meat. At the insistence of Azzopardi and despite our investigators repeated efforts to provide them with a proper diet, the young birds were maintained on a diet of hamburger. According to Azzopardi, the raptor food available at the local PETsMART (which costs $19 for two bags) was too expensive. Eventually, the kestrels went missing, apparently having escaped through the wire openings of their cage.
Despite suffering from a broken wing, an adult Mississippi kite brought to the facility by an AWR volunteer was never provided with veterinary care. This kite was kept in a "pet" carrier (with maggots, feces, and rotten meat, although kites are primarily insectivores) before being placed in a flight cage. Our investigator later found the remains of what appeared to be the same bird near the area where the dogs from the facility congregated.
Not long thereafter, two hawks and one kite arrived at AWR (on three separate occasions). The first hawk to arrive was a baby who had been illegally taken from her nest by someone who had ultimately decided not to keep her as a pet. The second to arrive was a slightly older hawk from the Amarillo Zoo who had reportedly been attacked by rock-throwing kids. The third to arrive was a kite with a broken wing who was brought to the facility by a member of the public. Once again, none of the birds was provided with a proper diet or veterinary care. As a result, the birds were weak and unable to stand correctly. The baby hawk, who eventually grew into a juvenile, was later found torn to shreds after she had apparently wandered into one of the big-cat cages.