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Old 11-14-03, 09:46 AM   #1 (permalink)
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your thoughts on this

Even though i live in Massachusetts i still think this is a little silly! Here's an article in the local paper this morning....


Illegal reptiles confiscated from home; 5' alligator in basement

Crocodilians and lizard to be sent to Fla.
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MILLVILLE- An alligator, a crocodile-like caiman and a lizard, all illegal pets in Massachusetts, were seized from a Central Street home yesterday afternoon by state environmental police and local police.

Police were still waiting to speak with the owner of the reptiles last night before they determined if he will be charged criminally, or face a $50 fine. The animals will be tested and later relocated to a more natural environment in Florida.

Police said the reptiles were bought at a pet store in Rhode Island, where it is not illegal to own them. The owner lives about a mile from the state line.

"The owner never purchased or possessed them illegally in Rhode Island, but it is illegal to possess them in Massachusetts," said Andrey Guidera, special agent with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Keith W. Lemieux has owned a 5-foot, 60-pound male American alligator and a savannah monitor in the basement of his mother-in-law's home at 54 Central St. for the past five years. He has also had a yacare caiman, a member of the crocodilian family, for the past three years, which he kept in a glass aquarium upstairs in the home.



Michael Ralbovsky, with David Jones behind him, carries out two boxes containing a savannah monitor and a caiman from the Lemieux home. (T&G Staff/PAULA FERAZZI SWIFT)
Enlarge photo


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The three pets were taken from the home by herpetologist Michael K. Ralbovsky and his team of experts from Rainforest Reptile Shows of Beverly, after a the home was entered with a search warrant by local police and state environmental police. Wendy L. Knowlton, an environmental police officer with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and a special agent from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also assisted.

Mr. Ralbovsky will relocate the reptiles to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in Florida in the next few weeks so they can live a "normal life."

In addition to the pets, all material and tanks related to raising the reptiles were seized.

Mr. Lemieux, his wife, Roseanne C. Lemieux, and their two teenage children live in the home owned by Mrs. Lemieux's mother, Suzanne C. Minot . Mr. Lemieux was not home yesterday afternoon, but his wife and mother-in-law cooperated with the search, saying they did not know it was illegal to own the reptiles in Massachusetts.

"We've had them all these years. We've never known we weren't supposed to own them," Ms. Minot said. "We've never had a problem. I've fed them ... These are our pets."

Ms. Minot said her son-in-law has raised them all since they were babies. The animals were fed live rats and dead chickens, Ms. Minot said.

The family also had a large make-shift habitat with a small puddle of water, a hose and a pump in the back yard, which Police Chief Timothy P. Ryan said was likely used to allow them to take the alligator outside in warmer weather.

An adult alligator can typically reach 12 feet in length, said Mr. Rablovsky. At 5-feet, the alligator taken from the home had almost reached full sexual maturity, which is 6-feet, and will grow more through the years, he said. The savannah monitor is a member of the komodo dragon family, and is a medium-sized lizard. It can get to 3 or 4 feet long when full-grown. Whiskey was about 2 to 3 feet long.

The yacare caiman was smaller than the alligator, measuring about 2 feet long. The species, sometimes sold by pet stores as a "baby alligator," is commonly referred to as the "piranha caiman," because of its teeth. Unusually large teeth in the lower jaw protrude through the top surface of the upper jaw, according to the Crocodilian Species List on the Internet.

Mr. Lemieux could be charged with illegal possession of a crocodilian without a permit, said Officer Andrew P. Beaulieu of the Massachusetts Environmental Police in New Braintree. The permits are usually restricted to training or educational facilities, Officer Beaulieu said.

"We have the option of charging him criminally or noncriminally. We haven't decided yet," Officer Beaulieu said.

The alligator's mouth was taped and he was placed in a large plastic tub, which was taped shut. The others were placed in smaller plastic containers and all three were quickly moved to a waiting warm sport utility vehicle. Any length of time in the cold weather could harm or kill the animals, said Officer Paul Norton of the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

"This is not an animal that should be kept as a pet," said Mr. Ralbovsky. "It should be kept in the wild or in a zoo."

Ms. Gallagher added that the animals, particularly the caiman, are unpredictable. "This is not a dog or a cat. They don't think like a dog or a cat. They act on instinct," Ms. Gallagher said.

Mr. Ralbovksy said the family took excellent care of the animals, and there weren't any signs of neglect.

While illegal, alligators aren't as dangerous as they are perceived to be, Mr. Ralbovsky said. Alligators typically stay away from humans; only 17 people have been killed by alligators since 1948, Mr. Ralbovksy said. Most accidents, he added, are feeding accidents. Experts say feeding alligators is dangerous, because it trains alligators to associate humans with food.

Owning these types of reptiles is rather common, and the American alligator is one of the more popular species in the pet trade, Mr. Ralbovsky said. Some of the species live to be 60 to 90 years old, and ownership is a "lifelong commitment," Mr. Ralbovsky said.

"When you purchase them they look very cute in the tank in the pet store, but people don't think of the ramifications down the road," Ms. Gallagher said. "They become status symbols."

"If people in Massachusetts are thinking about purchasing an exotic animal, they should first do some research either on the Internet, through the local police department or the environmental police, to make sure the animal is legal to have, store or possess in Massachusetts or at the very least should inquire of pet store salespeople if they are legal to own," Chief Ryan said.

The animals are determined to be unlawful to own if they meet two of three criteria set by the Fish and Wildlife Service: how dangerous they are to humans, how endangered the animals are and how difficult the animals are to care for, Mr. Rablovsky said.

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Old 11-14-03, 09:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 11-14-03, 10:03 AM   #3 (permalink)
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same here
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Old 11-14-03, 10:39 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Wow, pretty well written and doesn't show the reptiles as evil creatures. While I don't agree that the animals are difficult to care for (as the family is reported to have taken excelent care of them), and i don't agree they shouldn't be housed in private collections I do aggree they shouldn't be keeping them with out the proper permits.
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Old 11-14-03, 12:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I agree with you completely, Lisa. The laws in general are pretty rotten and there are a percentage of herpers that can keep the large carnivorous reptiles quite well. It's the many idiots who get in over their heads that are responsible for the laws existing in the first place.

I do think people who can prove they have the knowledge and skills necessary to keep crocodilians properly should be allowed to get a permit and keep them legally. But if they choose to do so in an illegal fashion it makes it easier for even more restrictive laws to pass which hurts everybody.
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Old 11-14-03, 01:00 PM   #6 (permalink)
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A $50 fine? That's it?! I thought it would be more than that.
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Old 11-14-03, 01:16 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Well, personally, I would find the police very .... if they were to charge him criminally, I would so be pissed. Most of the time, you have a to go through soo many papers and people to learn your municipality rules concerning certain things like reptiles, it could take months to get an answer from.
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Old 11-14-03, 02:55 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Well maybe he'll be able to apply for permit to own them now? I mean, it's tough to have your pets taken from you, even if it was your fault for messing it all up. Silly laws!
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Old 11-14-03, 03:49 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Pookie
Well maybe he'll be able to apply for permit to own them now? I mean, it's tough to have your pets taken from you, even if it was your fault for messing it all up. Silly laws!

Doubtful, most places prohibit you from getting a permit once you've broken the restrictions one time.

Also in his area permits those species are hard to get and restricted to educational/training facitilies.
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Old 11-15-03, 05:56 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Guess he should have moved the 1 mile across the border into RI where it would have been totally legal.
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