Lawton Animal Welfare offers grace period to turn in illegal pets

Lawton Animal Welfare offers grace period to turn in illegal pets

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -The young alligator that was found roaming the Liberty Lake neighborhood in Lawton Monday morning now has a home.

A Lawton resident called police when they saw the small alligator walking down Northwest Liberty Avenue, just off Cache Road. Officers rescued it and took it to the animal control division. They think it was possibly someone's pet, because it didn't seem to mind being handled. However, it's illegal to own an alligator in Oklahoma, so instead of putting it up for adoption, they gave it to the aquarium in Medicine Park that's due to open at the end of the summer.

Lawton residents can be fined for having an illegal animal, such as alligators, crocodiles, elephants and monkeys, just to name a few. If you are caught with an illegal animal, you can be fined up to $750 and spend up to six months in jail. If the case is serious enough, they will call the state in to work the case and the fees will be even higher. The reason for those penalties is primarily for public safety.

Since the alligator Lawton Police caught is so young, if it bit you, it probably wouldn't do more than break skin, but with time it will keep growing to be around 10 feet long. So if someone did just dump it, trying to get rid of it, that could ultimately create a dangerous situation.

"Imagine if this was released in Lake Lawtonka and no one knew for six years and then we're looking at a seven footer or a six footer out there. It would be the monster of Lake Lawtonka," said Lawton Animal Welfare superintendent Russell Anderson.

Anderson says they want to prevent this from happening. So, for the next two weeks, people who own illegal animals can avoid the fine by bringing them to the shelter.

"A lot of people won't come in if we don't. They'll just release them and the last thing we want is you know, 12 of these in 12 different lakes," Anderson said.

The only exception to owning an alligator or other exotic animals is for those who have a science research or education permit.

The executive director at Medicine Parks Aquarium, Doug Kemper, says knowing how to take care of the animals is important.

"It's critical if you're keeping any animal that, whether it's a dog or a cat or a bunny rabbit or an alligator, that you know something about the animal and it's physiology and biology and are able to provide those elements that are required," Kemper said.

Anderson says there was no way they could keep the animal at the shelter because it will get more aggressive as it gets bigger.

"They get a little bit more harder to handle for someone like us. It's just the best spot for him. He'll have a long life there," Anderson said.

The amnesty period for owners of the illegal animals in Lawton started June 21 and will end July 5.

The list of illegal animals in Lawton includes but is not limited to the following: lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, wolves, foxes, lynxes, alligators, crocodiles, apes, elephants, rhinoceroses, bears, poisonous snakes, raccoons, skunks, monkeys, prairie dogs, bats and other like animals.

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