CINCINNATI — A 7-foot alligator found in an Ohio man’s basement is malnourished, has bone disease from a lack of sun for 15 years and was being taunted by teenagers on a regular basis, authorities said Tuesday.
The Humane Society of Greater Dayton confiscated the 15-year-old gator from its owner on Sunday in the southwestern Ohio home where it was being kept after a video was posted on Facebook showing the reptile being taunted.
The video shows a young man laughing as he throws beer on top of the alligator, which jerks back in surprise and bites the small, hard plastic tub where he was kept in the basement.
Sheila Marquis, cruelty investigator of the Humane Society of Greater Dayton, said the alligator’s owner and young men in the video may face charges of animal cruelty in the next couple days as she wraps up her investigation.
Rumors had been coming in for at least two years about the alligator in the basement. But, authorities could not enter the home and investigate without probable cause to believe it was being subjected to cruelty, which came in the form of the Facebook post of the video, said Tim Harrison, director of Dayton-based Outreach For Animals, which specializes in rescuing wild and exotic animals throughout Ohio.
Harrison, who helped get the malnourished gator out of the home and to a veterinarian, said the reptile’s owner had been keeping his back door open and allowing high schoolers to come in and see the alligator, even if he wasn’t there.
The man wasn’t there when the Facebook video was taken, Harrison said.
The video may not appear to show the alligator being directly harmed physically, but Harrison said the concrete wall next to its tub is covered in teeth marks, showing that it repeatedly had jerked its head from previous taunts, knocking out its own teeth or weakening them.
The alligator is missing many teeth, while other teeth in its mouth were broken or infected.
Harrison said the alligator is just under 7 feet long, but should be more like 10 feet long. He said it showed other signs of malnourishment and lack of vitamin D from being kept in a basement for 15 years without sunlight.
“When we brought him out in to the sun, he actually just closed his eyes for a long time. It was really sad,” he said.
The alligator, now being allowed out in the sun in Columbus, will be moved to a refuge in Florida this week, where he’ll get special care, and be kept in a swampy, outdoor area, Harrison said, adding that an alligator’s average life span is about 75 years old in captivity.
“He’s going to be an alligator the best he can be,” he said.