750-Pound Alligator Seized From Hamburg, N.Y., Home

The alligator’s name was Albert Edward.

He was 11 feet long, 750 pounds heavy and 34 years old, and until this week, he lived in a pool house attached to his owner’s home in Hamburg, N.Y., about 13 miles south of Buffalo.

But the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation removed Albert from his home on Wednesday after it determined that he was being kept there illegally, the department said in a Facebook post.

The alligator’s owner had built an addition to his house where Albert lived in an in-ground swimming pool, according to the department. The agency also said that the owner had allowed people, including children, to be in the pool with Albert, who is blind in both eyes and has spinal injuries.

It is illegal to own an alligator in New York unless you have a license, according to a statement from the department. But those licenses are only for “scientific, educational, exhibition, zoological or propagation purposes,” the department’s website said.

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

The agency said that Albert’s owner, Tony Cavallaro, had a license for the alligator, but it expired in 2021. In an interview, Mr. Cavallaro, 64, said that while visitors to his home did sometimes take pictures with Albert, they never swam with him or rode him. Instead, they would briefly get in the water for a quick photo with the animal, often when he was sleeping, Mr. Cavallaro said.

“I did everything by the book the whole time,” he said. “They changed the rules, and I should be grandfathered in. I shouldn’t have to abide by them.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation adopted new regulations for owning alligators and other dangerous animals in 2020, an agency spokesman said. The department informed Mr. Cavallaro of those changes and of required updates to the alligator’s enclosure, but it said that Mr. Cavallaro did not make the necessary adjustments.

Mr. Cavallaro said that he would have had to spend $15,000 to install a fence around his yard and even more for zoo insurance when Albert was already covered by his personal insurance. Mr. Cavallaro maintains that he sent paperwork to the department, but that the agency said it was not sufficient.

When it comes to Albert’s health issues, Mr. Cavallaro said that those could be attributed to his advanced age as well as his species — alligators often develop cataracts. “He’s always had a problem with his eyes,” he said.

The department took the alligator to a licensed caretaker who will look after Albert until he can be transported to a permanent facility, the Facebook post said, adding that charges against Mr. Cavallaro were being considered.

Mr. Cavallaro said that he bought Albert at a reptile show in Columbus, Ohio, in August 1990, when the alligator was a newborn. Mr. Cavallaro is a reptile enthusiast who at one point owned over 100 reptiles, he said, but caring for them was too much work. Since he gave up the last of his snakes 16 years ago, it has just been him and Albert. Until Wednesday.

“The poor thing loves me,” Mr. Cavallaro said. “He was scared.”

Mr. Cavallaro said he treated Albert like a child and wanted to be reunited with him soon.

“I hope I can get him back, that’s all,” he said.

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