Rescued bird at center of battle - FOX 13 News

Rescued bird at center of battle

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

A St. Petersburg woman says a Pinellas County wildlife rescue is basically holding her pet bird ransom. But the rescue claims it must charge certain fees in order to release the parrot back to its owner.

Vanessa Munoz has had birds since she was 11. She's in love with cockatoo Sunshine. Her exotic parrot Kelly is special too. But, it's her dear Lucy, a 40-year-old Yellow Naped Amazon, that's gone and it's breaking her heart.

"I don't want a big fight," a tearful Munoz told FOX 13.

The exotic parrot flew the coop three weeks ago. She had chewed through her cage before and Munoz admits it wasn't completely secure.

"I went out and called her and she wasn't answering me, which was very upsetting to me because she always answers me. She yells back 'What! What!'" said Munoz.

A neighbor found Lucy and called Wildlife Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation in Seminole to pick her up. But now, Munoz can't get her bird back, unless she pays up.

"He said 'You can be here by 5 o'clock and you can have $400.'" recounted Munoz. "And I said 'What? $400 for what?'"

But Wildlife Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation director Vernon Yates says a policy is a policy.

"We charge $100 initially for picking it up. We charge $25 a day for every day we have it," he said.

As of Wednesday, the rescue wanted $575. Yates says the fee only grew because, at first, Munoz couldn't give an accurate description of the parrot or provide proper proof of ownership. She has since, but Yates says the fee is not negotiable.

"Those people who want to feel bad for her and want me to just give her the bird, I don't think they have the bird's interest really totally at heart," said Yates. "The bird has escaped multiple times."

Munoz says Lucy has gotten out five times, but she plans to get a new cage. She also says she didn't realize the bird's clipped wings had grown back. In the meantime, she and her husband, an Iraq war veteran, say they just don't have the money to pay the rescue.

"I would like to have my bird back," said Munoz. "That's all."

Munoz took a Pinellas sheriff's deputy with her to the rescue, but she says he told her there's nothing he can do.

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