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Why thousands signed a petition to return a pet alligator to its owner

Tony Cavallaro, who lives in upstate New York, his 800-pound alligator Albert his son and had him since 1990.
Why thousands signed a petition to return a pet alligator to its owner
Posted at 11:54 AM, Mar 17, 2024

Thousands have signed a petition asking the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to return an 800-pound alligator named Albert to its owner. 

Tony Cavallaro, who lives in upstate New York, got Albert as a hatchling at a reptile show in 1990. He called the reptile, who grew to 11 feet, his son. 

But on Wednesday, the DEC swarmed his home, with the help of police and the SPCA Serving Erie County, taking the alligator into their custody and would not let Cavallaro say goodbye. 

“It was really upsetting how it was handled,” said next-door neighbor Laura Lautner. “They loaded Albert on the back of a cargo van, and just laid him there.”

Cavallaro previously had a permit for Albert, but it expired in 2021 and was not renewed. However, Cavallaro said he tried to renew it with the DEC.

“[DEC] would not clarify, they would not answer, this is on them,” said Cavallaro. “I should be grandfathered in.”

The DEC said Cavallaro “allowed members of the public to get into the water to pet the unsecured alligator.”

Cavallaro told Scripps News Buffalo that kids have posed for pictures in the pool with Albert, but it wasn’t something that happened often.

"He's not having alligator get together, or parties," said Lautner. "He's just a really nice guy and loves that alligator, and treats it well. 

The DEC told Scripps News Buffalo, “Even if the owner was appropriately licensed, public contact with the animal is prohibited and grounds for license revocation and relocation of the animal.”

“I’m Albert’s dad, that’s all there is to it,” explained Cavallaro. “He’s like family to everybody.” 

The Hamburg man built a room for Albert in 2016, which has a pool, and a waterfall. 

“Very calm, very gentle,” said Lautner. “Albert is not getting out of where he lives. He has no reason to. He swims in the pool, lays on the pool deck, eats chicken and doesn’t bother anybody.”

The DEC said Albert was blind and had a spinal issue.

However, Cavallaro said he was not blind and showed Scripps News Buffalo the medication he had been giving Albert for his eyes. He also said Albert swam and moved fine, and never noticed spine issues.

“There were some people joking, and laughing,” said Lautner about what occurred on Wednesday. “I said ‘Is this funny to you?’ This is someone’s pet."

The DEC said Albert was turned over to a licensed caretaker and then will be transported for “permanent care. The agency added, “Analysis of additional evidence seized during the warrant and consultation with a licensed veterinarian will determine any future potential charges.”

This story was originally published by Michael Schwartz at Scripps News Buffalo.

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