Buffalo, N.Y. – When a pet outgrows its cage, you build or buy a new one. When a pet outgrows its basement home, you send it to Florida.
An 8-foot-long, 170-pound alligator was removed Sunday from the house of a reptile enthusiast in Buffalo, New York, who called the Department of Environmental Conservation when he realized he could not longer care for it.
Reptile experts John and Laura Paner made the 40-hour round-trip drive from Tampa, Florida to their old hometown to pick up “Jojo” in a van that will reach the Croc Encounters Reptile Sanctuary by Tuesday night.
The owner had raised the animal from birth, recreating its environment in what the Paners estimated to be a 10 feet by 12 feet area including a small pond. Laura Paner noted that the land area appeared to be steam-cleaned while the water area had a filter.
“He appears to be healthy,” said Laura Paner, who started Croc Encounters with her husband in January 2005. “The gentleman that had him kept him clean. The area he was living in appeared to be the right size for now, though it wouldn’t have been in a year. He’s a good size and weight for his age.”
Department of Environmental Conservation also confiscated a rattlesnake from the man who owns over 20 other reptiles, but the Croc Encounters did not take custody of it.
Normally, the couple ships the animals they claim custody of to the sanctuary, but the size of Jojo warranted a road trip, said Paner.
“We have contacts throughout the country, so we get called frequently,” said Paner, who with her husband served at one time on the board of the Western New York Herpetological Society. “In a situation like this, where the animal was confiscated and a crate would have had to be built, we just decided to come up and get it.”
The legality of keeping pet alligators varies by state, county or city. It is illegal in New York to own an alligator without a permit, but officials said the man who raised it will not be charged because he gave the animal up voluntarily.
“We do not get compensated for this,” Paner said. “We do it so the animal has a chance at life.”
Jojo will reside in Tampa and will be used for educational purposes.