Neighbors Blame Pigeon Problems On One Bad Seed

Angry Neighbors Call NBC 10 Investigators For Help

Neighbors said they've done everything they can think of to get this to stop in their Rhawnhurst neighborhood.

They've signed petitions. They've helped the City of Philadelphia take the case to court.

And still, every day, to put it bluntly, they're pooped on by pigeons that flock there daily. That's why they called the NBC 10 Investigators.

"They're flying rodents," said neighbor Beth Cinque.

They wait on the wire.

"It's disgusting," said neighbor Eleanor Hennessy.

To neighbors, it feels like a nightmare scene right out of the old Alfred Hitchcock movie, "The Birds."

One look at the deposits left on an NBC 10 News car gives an idea what all of the screaming is about.

"It's a crime against us," said Hennessy's husband, Francis.

And it has been going on for years.

"We're out there every day washing our cars. Our dogs are getting pooped on, literally," Cinque said.

"We couldn't eat in our yard all summer. Kids next door couldn't swim in their pool. You can't hang laundry," Francis Hennessy said.

"I'm working on a story about the pigeons," said NBC 10's Lu Ann Cahn as she approached.

"Oh, look, leave me alone. Go away," said Karen Partain.

Partain owns the Rhawnhurst row home that has become the pigeon palace on Hartel Avenue.

Her husband, Joe Mutoli, wouldn't answer the door. City health officials said despite six citations, Mutoli has continued to illegally put out a virtual bird buffet.

A seventh citation was delivered while NBC 10 was there.

Cahn said she was told there's nothing wrong with a bird feeder. But the city said Mutoli has been told numerous times that he's not allowed to throw feed on the ground and in a public school yard behind his home.

"His response has been that this is something he can do, and also there has been a lot of confrontation with our officers," said Tara Derby, of the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society.

"This is illegal, yes. There's no way it's legal. It's in violation of the animal ordinance," Derby said.

Experts said the food has caused the pigeon population to explode and the droppings are a health hazard.

"The droppings contain bacteria and viruses," said William Ferraro, of the Philadelphia Health Department.

"I usually clean right after nap time," said a local day care operator. "See, they're circling now."

The woman said she is constantly cleaning a small playground where the pigeon poop sometimes comes down like rain.

"If I would miss like one or two areas of droppings, of course the kids would find them, they would touch it and put it in their mouths," said the daycare operator.

If it's illegal, why can't the city stop this?

"It's the million dollar question," said Eleanor Hennessy.

Neighbors said it's hard to catch Mutoli throwing bird feed and show the city how serious this is.

So, the NBC 10 investigators sat in an undercover van and waited. It's difficult to see because it was pitch-black outside, but sure enough at 11 p.m. one night, an NBC 10 crew caught Mutoli grab bird feed out of his garage and throw it through the fence of the neighboring schoolyard.

On video, he's a shadowy figure. But Cahn said she and other crewmembers saw him clearly with their own eyes.

"You've continued to spread bird feed on the ground, and you know that's illegal, right?" Cahn asked Mutoli over the phone.

Mutoli admitted on the phone that he shouldn't be doing that and said he will stop. He claims he's trying to move the birds away from his home and slowly wean them off food.

Neighbors said they've heard that before, but it never stops.

City officials told Cahn that you can't throw a guy in prison for feeding pigeons. But as a result of this story and community pressure, NBC 10 has learned Mutoli is being ordered to appear in municipal court next month where he could be fined thousands of dollars.

What would you do if you lived next to this birdhouse? Let us know by clicking here.


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