If you grew up in the ‘80s, you may have heard the urban legend about alligators in the New York sewer system. Rumor had it that some well-meaning people came down to Florida and bought baby alligators. When the gators got too big for their homes, the owners simply flushed them down the toilet. Alligators have been living in the New York sewer system and our imaginations ever since.
While we certainly can’t verify that alligators have been flushed down toilets, they have been sighted in and around New York City. In fact, the New York Times reported seeing an alligator sunning itself and the banks of the Bronx River back in 1932.
How did it get there?
It’s likely through irresponsible “pet” ownership.
But we’re not here to talk about whether there are alligators in the New York sewer system or not. We’re talking about pets and, believe it or not, some people do get excited about the possibility of having an alligator for a pet.
Is alligator ownership a fairy tale or can you actually own them? First, it’s important to differentiate between being allowed to own an exotic pet and actually doing so.
At Alligator attraction, we strongly advise against owning an alligator. If you love them and other reptiles, don’t try to take on the challenges of ownership. Instead, spend as much time as you like at our Wildlife Learning Center or watch them from afar in the wild. Ownership is expensive, dangerous, and not a good fit for most people. Here’s why:
13 Reasons an Alligator Isn’t a Good Pet
- Alligators live a long time. Depending on the species that could be 30-50 years. Do you know where you’ll be in 30-50 years?
- It’s likely not legal in your state to own one. Many states have banned ownership of exotic pets like alligators. Illinois is one of them. Florida allows you to own them but you must be licensed and have a permit to do so. There are only five states that allow you to own an alligator with no permits or licenses required. Those states are Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.
- Alligators are very small when they’re born but can grow a foot each year. You better have a lot of space. How much space? Adult males can grow to be 11 ft in length. Not sure how big that is? If the alligator could balance on the tip of his tail, his nose would most likely be poking your ceiling.
- They eat a lot. A growing gator can eat up to 1/4 of its body weight. To put that into measurable terms, if you weigh a hundred pounds and you ate 1/4 of your body weight at a meal you’d be eating 25 lbs of steak. Are you ready to put that amount of meat on your grocery list?
- An alligator is just an alligator. You cannot domesticate an alligator. There aren’t fancy sideshow tricks or things you can do like laying a biscuit on its nose and making it wait to eat it until you give the command. Alligators’ behavior is hardwired and if you expect it to adopt the traits of a cat or dog, you’ll be disappointed.
- Alligators need special vet care when they’re in captivity. It’s unlikely your regular vet is going to be able to take care of your alligator. It’s also unlikely that your alligator will enjoy car rides to the vet, so you’ll have to find someone who makes house calls.
- Alligators won’t want to share with you. They can be kind of selfish when it comes to food.
- Alligators don’t like to wear fuzzy coats, even when it’s cold. If you like to dress up your pets, an alligator is probably not the right pet for you.
- Alligators don’t like to fetch. In fact, they lay around a lot, especially when it’s cold outside and the sun is warm.
- Alligators have great hearing but they often won’t answer to their names. If you’re trying to get your alligator’s attention, know that they can be more difficult than a cat.
- Alligators don’t enjoy acting as a pool raft. If you want to lay on an alligator in the open water, you should probably get the inflatable kind
- Alligators get annoyed when you try to put them in your family Christmas card. While they’re always willing to smile for the camera and they’re pretty good at holding still, they don’t like all the ruckus behind family pictures. It’s best to leave them out.
- Alligators don’t want to eat their veggies either. If you think you have a hard time getting your kids to eat vegetables, your alligator is likely to be even more stubborn.
In all seriousness, while we love all of our animals here at Alligator Attraction, we by no means want to suggest that alligators should be adopted as family pets. Your interaction with our alligators will be a happy one–and our grunts are so cute–so we understand why you might want to take one home. But if you really want to play a big role in their lives you can always adopt one (in name only) from our Wildlife Learning Center.