HARTFORD, Conn. – New Haven officers responding to a minor dispute got a surprise when they found a 4-foot alligator living as a family pet inside a city apartment, police said Wednesday.
Officers were called to the Ferry Street apartment Tuesday night when a resident reported that an acquaintance was trying to kick down his door in a dispute about money.
Once that woman was arrested, the officers turned their attention to the other pressing matter at hand: the 4-foot American alligator they spotted living inside the apartment, which is located in one of New Haven's most densely populated neighborhoods.
Although it is not illegal to own alligators, state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman Dwayne Gardner said Wednesday it is "strongly discouraged" because of their potential size, strength and temperament.
DEEP wildlife officers came to the apartment Tuesday night at the request of New Haven police to remove the alligator, which the resident willingly relinquished. Gardner said Wednesday it would be moved to a wildlife sanctuary in Florida, and the owner is not expected to face charges unless officials determine it was subjected to cruel treatment or endangered anyone.
Connecticut updated its laws in 2009 to ban private ownership of primates that weigh 35 pounds or more at maturity, along with several species of wild animals such as bears, leopards and wolves.
That legislation stemmed from a February 2009 attack in which Charla Nash, a Stamford woman, was critically injured by her friend's rampaging 200-pound chimpanzee. Police later shot the animal to death as it cornered an officer in his cruiser.
Lawmakers considered adding alligators, crocodiles and other large reptiles to their list of banned pets, but that version of the legislation was scrapped because critics said it was too broad and banned too many kinds of animals.
The laws don't apply to zoos, sanctuaries, nature centers, museums and similar regulated facilities.
Gardner said the DEEP has drawn up draft regulations that would ban alligators, crocodiles and caymans, another kind of reptile, from private ownership. DEEP officials will present the proposal in January to a legislative committee that reviews state agencies' regulations and determines whether to let them go into effect.
The American alligator found Tuesday night in New Haven belongs to a species that averages between 8 and 11 feet long at maturity, depending on its gender, though some have been recorded at 14 feet.
The man listed by police as the apartment's resident could not immediately be reached Wednesday for comment.