Alligators don't belong on Long Island. And yet ...
A 9-year-old, 5-foot-long American alligator named Zachary was turned over to the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation and Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals this week, officials say.
According to Suffolk County SPCA Chief Ray Gross, the reptile's owner gave it up. The owner had bought the gator out of state, lacked the permit to own it in New York and could no longer care for it, according to Gross.
"Originally, they claimed they didn’t know anything about an alligator. But then when we gave them the choice of either turning it in and facing civil penalties or having us get a search warrant and facing criminal charges they made the phone call and said we have your alligator come get it," said NYSDEC Captain Timothy Byrnes.
Zachary will be sent to a licensed wildlife sanctuary.
"Alligators do not make good pets, are a danger to the public, and are illegal to own without a permit from the NYSDEC," Gross offered by way of reminder (if anyone needed one). "These are very, very dangerous animals. They can inflict serious injuries or even death...I can’t imagine anybody sitting on a couch with an alligator curled up on their lap. It doesn’t make sense."
He said 22 alligators that may have been kept initially as pets by various people or places were once illegally released on Long Island within a year, endangering the public. Gross would like to avoid a repeat.
From a Lynx last week to a gator this week, the Suffolk County SPCA has seen their share of abandoned, surrendered and captured wildlife.
"We have caymans, crocodiles, cougars, a black bear. Leopards, we have had two leopards in a house in six hills, numerous venomous snakes, an alligator, snapping turtle," said Gross.
Anyone who sees an abandoned reptile is asked to call the Suffolk County SPCA at 631-382-7722 or NYSDEC Police at 631-444-0250. Owners of exotic animals can surrender theirs without penalty or charges for illegal possession, with Suffolk County now offering an amnesty program.
"If you had one, it’s better to call us now and make arrangements to voluntarily surrender it than it is for us to knock on your door," said Byrnes. "Our message is: don’t own these. There are plenty of cats and dogs and fish and all kinds of other pets that are much easier to take care of and much safer and healthier for the wildlife itself."