The owners of a 36-year-old alligator seized by animal services said Wednesday their family pet named Jaxson was a "docile" creature "who wouldn't hurt a fly."
Los Angeles animal control officers said they found the 8-foot alligator in a box with two dead cats in a Van Nuys backyard on Monday.
Brenda Barnette of Los Angeles Animal Services said they got a tip last year about an alligator at the same home but they found nothing. They got another tip Monday and were refused entry. Barnette said they got a warrant and found Jaxson, in a box with the dead cats.
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Los Angeles Zoo officials helped impound and move the alligator, which "looks to be about 40 years old." Because of the cats, officials were asking neighbors if anyone had lost any small pets over the years.
But the alligator's owner told NBC4 on Wednesday that Jaxson, a 36-year-old female alligator, did not eat cats, and she was only in the box because the family didn't want animal services to seize their beloved pet.
Owner Laura Mattson said despite Jaxson being found near two cat carcasses, the gator has never eaten live animals but was actually hand-fed "hot dogs and chicken for 36 years."
She said the reptile belonged to her late husband, and when he passed away she kept Jaxon because, even though it is illegal, he is part of her family.
One photo shown to NBC4 by Mattson showed Jaxson on the ground as a kitten snuggled next to her.
"She was so docile, she would let rats eat the hot dogs out of her mouth," Mattson said.
Aerial video over the home showed several cats wandering in the backyard.
Animal Services has launched a criminal investigation into the case because it is illegal to keep wildlife in Los Angeles without a permit.