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Pay up or the parrot gets it, says bank

It sounds like the basis for a Monty Python sketch, rather than a $50,000 lawsuit. A woman from Pennsylvania is suing Bank of America, after a contractor wrongly repossessed her home and impounded her beloved pet parrot.

Angela Iannelli was separated from Luke, a blue macaw, for more than a week. The incident last October caused so much "emotional distress", she said, that she was forced to begin taking prescription medication for anxiety.

Her lawsuit alleges that a contractor working for the bank broke into her home near Pittsburgh, changed the locks, cut off the utilities, damaged the floors, poured antifreeze down sinks and toilets, and "stole" the parrot.

Bank of America has admitted wrongdoing, saying a clerical error meant the debt collector was wrongly told that Ms Iannelli's home was empty, that she was in default on her mortgage, and that it should be repossessed.

In fact, Ms Iannelli, who owns a local diner, still lived at the address. Records show she'd missed one mortgage payment, but that the debt was quickly settled, a couple of days after the due date.

The lawsuit has shone an uncomfortable light on major US banks, who have been widely accused of Kafka-esque incompetence and a failure to offer sufficient help to the eight million US home owners who are in foreclosure.

When Ms Iannelli rang Bank of America, they first denied knowing where the parrot was, and then told her she could drive to the offices of the contractor, 80 miles away, to retrieve the bird herself. Call-centre workers later told her they were "tired" of hearing from her, advised her to seek help from the police, and hung up. Bank of America has now apologised, saying it is conducting a review and has "zero tolerance for that kind of error".