Albert the Alligator’s ‘dad’ chomps at the bit to retrieve his pet gator seized by state


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A pet alligator living with his owner for over 30 years in western New York was seized by state authorities, which sparked a firestorm of backlash.

Many people in the town of Hamburg, New York, a Buffalo suburb, backed “Albert the Alligator’s” owner, Tony Cavallaro, and started an online petition urging the state to return Cavallaro’s 11-foot, 750-pound “child.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which took the alligator away, said Cavallaro’s license to have the alligator expired in 2021, and the gator was taken “in the interest of public safety.”

However, neighbors and area residents backed Cavallaro, who told a local news outlet, “I’m Albert’s dad, that’s all there is to it.”

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New York State authorities seized a pet alligator, named "Albert," from his owner in Hamburg, New York.

New York State authorities seized a pet alligator, named “Albert,” from his owner in Hamburg, New York. (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

The gator was seized last week, according to the DEC, which said Cavallaro allowed members of the public to get into the water with “Albert,” who had his own room, pool and waterfall in his Erie County home. 

“The alligator has numerous health-related issues, including blindness in both eyes and spinal complications,” the DEC said in a statement. 

However, Cavallaro bit back against the state agency’s accusations, saying, “Every one who has met Albert or knows Albert knows that this is not true.”

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“I took care of him better than most people take care of their kids,” he said, according to an online petition, which garnered nearly 115,000 signatures as of late Tuesday morning. 

The petition includes about a dozen videos from supporters. One person, who said she is a personal friend of Cavallaro, said he takes care of his gator and the two should be reunited. 

Another person said, “I signed the petition because I have a heart …. Free Albert.”

"Albert the Alligator" in his Erie County, New York, home before state agencies seized the gator.

“Albert the Alligator” in his Erie County, New York, home before state authorities seized the gator. (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

DEC’s response

The issue at the center of the “Free Albert” debate is a permit lapse, and public contact with the alligator. 

“Possession of animals designated as dangerous, including alligators, is prohibited in New York State except under license from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC),” the DEC told Fox News Digital in an email. 

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“These licenses, along with authorizing possession for regulated activities, protect the animal and the public. In this case, the former owner’s license to possess the alligator expired in 2021 and was not renewed. 

“At that time, DEC determined the owner’s facility failed to meet specific conditions to ensure this dangerous animal did not come in contact with humans and did not pose a threat to humans or the animal.”

New York State authorities seized Albert the Alligator, which the DEC says has health issues.

Authorities seized Albert the Alligator, which the DEC says has health issues. (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

Those conditions included deficiencies in the gator’s holding area, which needed to be rectified before Cavallaro’s license could be renewed. 

Even then, Albert may still have been hauled away because Cavallaro allowed the public to swim and take pictures with his pet. 

“To be clear, even if the owner were appropriately licensed, public contact with the animal is prohibited and grounds for license revocation and relocation of the animal,” the DEC said. 

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Albert the Alligator was turned over to a licensed caretaker, who will house the animal until it can be transported for permanent care. 

Evidence is still being seized, as part of a warrant and ongoing investigation, to determine if any potential charges will be filed. 

Cavallaro’s side of the story

Cavallaro is not going away quietly. He told WKBW, a local ABC affiliate, that he tried to renew his permit but could not get clarification from the DEC about certain changes. 

He argues, as the gator’s owner for 34 years, he should be grandfathered in. 

Cavallaro told 7 News that kids have posed for pictures in the pool with Albert in the back, but it was not often.

This is a sample of the comments in an online petition for a New York State man to keep his alligator.

This is a sample of the comments on an online petition for a New York man to keep his alligator. (change.org)

His neighbor, Laura Lautner, told the local news outlet that it was not like he was “having (an) alligator get together, or parties. He’s just a really nice guy and loves that alligator, and treats it well.”

Cavallaro said state and local authorities that seized Albert swarmed his home with “20 or more agents … in full body armor and guns treating me like a criminal,” according to the online petition. 

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“It was like I was a gun-dealing, drug-dealing criminal the way they acted,” he said, according to the petition. “The scene that they made on my street is very disturbing and totally wrong. I am very upset and angry about this whole incident.”

He said he will post updates about potential court information as it becomes available.  



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