Sunday, September 09, 2012

"Polly want a cracker ..... eh? Eff off Polly doesn't do effen crackers!"

Fowl language has woman flippin' mad
Blames neighbour for training cockatoo
By Matt Stout
Saturday, September 8, 2012
GET OUT! Kathleen Melker and Craig Fontaine say their neighbour Lynne Taylor, Fontaine's ex-wife, trained her bird to scream expletives at him. (Photo by Providence Journal)

An alleged cussing cockatoo is at the center of a heated neighborly dispute in which a Rhode Island woman is accused of training her bird to spew nasty expletives at her ex-husband and his girlfriend.

The foul-mouthed bird’s banter has become so bad the neighbors say they are leaving their waterfront home.

“I have never dealt with anything like this cuckoo bird next door,” Kathleen Melker, 53, told the Herald — and she wasn’t talking about Willy the cockatoo.

Lynne Taylor is due back in Warwick Municipal Court next week to fight allegations she violated a city animal noise ordinance when, according to Melker and boyfriend Craig Fontaine, she taught the bird to continually hurl curse words at them.

The dispute has largely become a symbolic battle — the ordinance carries just a $15 fine.

Judges in superior and family courts have handed out restraining orders to people on both sides, even banning Melker’s cat, Pharaoh, from stepping onto Taylor’s property, said her lawyer, Stephen Peltier.

“The statute reads if an individual is annoyed, that becomes a public nuisance. That is broad based on case law,” Peltier said of the ordinance, adding his client denies teaching Willy such language. The bird instead is saying “knock it off,” words Fontaine himself taught it, Peltier said.

“The bird is reacting to its environment,” added Peltier, who had a motion to dismiss the case thrown out on Thursday. “Melker is instigating the issue.”

Melker denies that, and says the dispute has forced her and Fontaine to put his $332,000 home on the market. “We’re done,” she said. “We have no quality of life.”

Civil libertarian Harvey A. Silverglate said he believes this is a case of First Amendment rights, and also one of “a knowing assumption of risk.”

“We all have to listen to stuff we don’t like, and you do assume a certain amount of risk when you live across the yard from your ex-spouse,” he said. “You really can’t make this stuff up.”

Gary J. Remal contributed to this report.

matthew.stout@bostonherald.com

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