Frida is the tiniest (and onliest) turkey at the SPCA, and she’s part of the larger problem of an influx of “pocket pets” in Pinellas County: smaller animals – non-canine and non-feline, this is – like hamsters, rats, birds, guinea pigs and everything in between.
For now, the majority of these animals have waived adoption fees to combat overpopulation and a high abandonment rate.
Currently, pocket pet numbers are at an all-time high of 60-70 animals, says Mitchy Chavez, Director of Animal Services for SPCA Tampa Bay.
That includes Frida.
“They’re great first pets, and people love them at first,” said Chavez. “But they can be a lot of work, and they’re not as present as maybe a cat or dog, so often they end up here.”
Viva la Frida!
“Here” is the winding Largo shelter that boasts a makeshift farm in the back.
The property has seen its fair share of miniature horses, goats, ferrets and, once, an emu.
Frida shares a communal chicken coop with two chicken hens, caddy corner to a tribe of permanent residents: a mess of iguanas that live in a junglescape sanctuary.
The lizards will never leave the SPCA.
“Iguanas are an invasive species, so the law is to kill them on sight,” Chavez said. “They live here now.”
Those scaly reptiles aren’t up for grabs, but Frida is – for free. According to staff, the female turkey landed at SPCA after her previous owner’s landlord evicted them both, leaving the bedraggled bird stranded.
That stress could account for Frida’s intense molt. Even still, the plucky bird is full of life and will stand, sit and preen herself as close to SPCA staff as possible – without risking getting picked up.
“She’s clearly very well-handled,” Chavez said, avoiding a shoelace peck. The SPCA hopes Frida finds a fitting – and legal – home, says SPCA Chief Operations Officer Tara Yurkshat.
“We don’t enforce zoning laws,” Yurkshat said. “We expect that if someone adopts an animal, that they will do their due diligence.”
While turkeys are a bit of a gray area, Pinellas County has varying requirements for chickens and fowl. Gulfport city ordinance is unclear as to the legality of turkeys – Sec. 5-12.1 forbids fowl, but Sec. 5-12.2 allows chickens (hens only). In St. Petersburg, fenced fowl cannot be within 100 feet of neighbors without their approval.
The one absolute? No roosters allowed.
As for Frida, her fate remains uncertain while she gobbles away in her temporary pen.