Tees

Middlesbrough man's owls hitch ride on mobility scooter

John Miller and owls
Image caption Jessie, Jenny and Jason perch on the handlebars of the mobility scooter

A Middlesbrough man determined to not lose his pet owls again after they were stolen has taken to travelling everywhere with them on his mobility scooter.

John Miller, 70, from Brambles Farm, had his tawny owl and two barn owls stolen from his aviary in February.

Two of his feathered friends, Jessie and Jenny, were returned to him after an appeal, and Mr Miller added a new bird to his collection, Jason, after the third owl was not recovered.

To ensure they are never taken again, he has now trained his beloved pets to perch on the handlebars of his scooter.

Mr Miller has always had a passion for birds, keeping everything from cockatiels and budgies to canaries and quails in his aviary.

'Year to live'

However, he had to give up many of his birds when he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease six years ago, as they were damaging his health.

He said: "I used to have a lot of birds out the back... you name it, I had it.

"I went to the doctor's... he examined me and he said, 'I'll give you a year to live unless you get rid of them'.

"It was a disaster for me, he gutted me - mind it wasn't as gutting as when I had them pinched. I could cry now."

Mr Miller was able to keep his owls as they do not fly from the aviary so they do not carry the pollen that can make his condition worse.

After his aviary was broken into in February, he took the decision to train the birds to perch on his mobility scooter and he now takes them everywhere.

He said: "When I go to Morrisons I just leave them outside where the gardening centre is.

"They [the public] know them and look after them - even the security man comes out now if he knows I'm there and he looks after them.

"I just love birds and that's it, I love these more than I do her [his wife]."

Mr Miller now has a fourth owl, which he has not named yet, but his new bird is not allowed out on the scooter as he is not as tame as his three companions.

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