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Baby alligator discovered after Tacony house fire

The owner had to surrender the reptile to authorities because it is illegal to keep gators as pets in Philadelphia.
This 12-inch baby alligator, which was being kept as a pet, was recovered by Philly animal control from the scene of a house fire in Tacony on Wednesday. Credit: Animal Care & Control

A baby alligator that was being kept as a pet in a Tacony home was discovered by firefighters as they battled a small blaze in the residence on Wednesday night. One person sustained minor injuries from the fire, officials said.

The 12- to 14-inch baby alligator is now in the custody of Animal Care & Control Team.

It wasn't a big surprise to Animal Care officers, who have previously recovered other exotic critters around Philadelphia being kept as pets, such as rattlesnakes, goats, pigs and a 2-foot-long catfish, a spokeswoman said.

"This is our first alligator this year," spokeswoman Ame Dorminy said. The owner reluctantly surrendered the reptile because it is illegal to keep alligators as pets in Philadelphia. "It's actually not as uncommon as you would think. A few years ago, the alligators were much more prevalent. It must have been some sort of trend."

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Firefighters were there to put out a blaze in apartments above a barbershop at Tulip and Unruh streets in Tacony around 8 p.m.

The fire was brought under control within 15 minutes, and one person was hospitalized for minor burns and smoke-related injuries, Fox 29 reported.

But firefighters also found the alligator living inside a tank reportedly filled with "green slime." They contacted Red Paw Relief Team, which provides aid to displaced pets, and officials there the called Animal Care team.

"Usually they’re small, which is good," Dorminy said. "Our officers are trained to handle alligators, but it's much safer the smaller they are."

"The man who owned the alligator wasn’t willing to turn it over at first," Dorminy said. "He actually walked away during part of the incident, and I guess he took that time to cool off, because he then willingly surrendered the alligator into our care."

The gator will be kept at Animal Care until it can be transferred into the custody of a rescue organization that is licensed and trained to provide an appropriate environment for an alligator, Dorminy said.

No one from the barbershop where the fire took place answered the phone to respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, recent heating and air conditioning renovations at Animal Care, which reduced its kennel space for dogs by half, just wrapped up last week. The shelter is now back to full capacity, Dorminy said.