NYPD uncovers stash of exotic animals

1:58 PM, Sep 9, 2012   |    comments
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New York (CNN) -- Animal control authorities removed 13 exotic pets from an apartment in a New York housing project, where the animals -- which included two small alligators -- were mostly kept in glass fish tanks, the NYPD said on Saturday.

Police officers had been conducting an unrelated search Friday afternoon when they came across two bearded dragons, two alligators, one gecko, one scorpion and a tarantula in a small Brooklyn apartment.

Six deadly snakes, including a boa constrictor and five pythons, also were uncovered, prompting police to call in the city's animal control agency.

The pet owner was not arrested, but police said the animals were removed because exotic pets are not allowed inside public housing projects. It's not yet clear where the animals will be permanently placed.

The city's housing authority permits "either one dog or one cat," as well as "reasonable quantities" of small pets, such as caged birds, fish, hamsters, gerbils or guinea pigs.

"Animals that are vicious, threatening, bite people or that are otherwise prohibited by law are not permitted in NYCHA apartments or on NYCHA property," according to the agency's website.

"The exotic pets market is largely unregulated, especially when it comes to reptiles," said Debbie Leahy, a spokeswoman for The Humane Society of the United States. "And there are hundreds of instances in which these animals escape, or their owners let them go."

Americans currently keep about 13 million reptiles as household pets, though most take care of them for less than a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That data, the government says, reflects both shifting pet preferences as well as reptiles' life spans and their limited ability to survive in captivity.

Meanwhile, Friday's find drew comparisons to a 2003 incident in New York when authorities uncovered a 400-pound Bengal tiger and a 280-pound alligator in a Harlem apartment.

Police said they had no choice but to rappel from a seventh-floor apartment window and fire a tranquilizer dart from outside the building.

Both the tiger and the alligator were then taken to an animal shelter.

Last year in Ohio, 56 exotic animals -- including Bengal tigers, wolves and monkeys -- were set free from a private reserve, apparently released by their owner before he took his own life.

Of all animals released, only a bear, two monkeys and three leopards were taken alive, authorities said.

David Ariosto, CNN

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