Alligator ownership unregulated in Pa., some want to change that

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. -- In Pennsylvania, you must have a license for your dog, but there are no state regulations on pet alligators. Yet, more people have them than you might think.

Right now, there's four rescued alligators at Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary in Lancaster County.

Often times, pet alligators outgrow their welcome.

Organizations like Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary are left to look after them.

Jesse Rothacker is the founder.

He says alligators grow up faster than their owners think.

"At this size, he would cause a bite that might require a band-aid and some Neosporin," explained Rothacker about a baby alligator. "As he grows, a foot a year, pretty soon, you’re talking a 5,6,7, 8 foot alligator. It’s an animal that can eventually bite your hand off."

More people in Pennsylvania are taking that chance than you might think.

"We’re a small rescue. We’re virtually not on the map, and we’re getting calls about every week for alligators," said Rothacker.

Rothacker says that’s because people no longer can or want to care for one.

“In Pennsylvania, you think that’s crazy? We have no regulation preventing the dealer from selling the alligator to a child!” exclaimed Rothacker.

That’s right. Since alligators aren’t native to Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission doesn’t regulate their ownership.

“At the very least, we need to regulate the sales of alligators. We could make a thousand dollar permit. We could require microchips so that when someone throws their alligator in a lake in a few years, they’re held responsible," explained Rothacker.

Some say that seems fair.

“If they don’t fit the criteria, they shouldn’t have them then. That’s all there is to it," said Steve Eddy of Lancaster County.

“Some of them are up to 10 feet long, and it’s just necessary to have regulations for that kind of animal," said Cheryl Kanagy of Lancaster County.

That would take legislative action, and Rothacker says it hasn’t been prioritized.

“If an alligator eats someone or kills a child in Pennsylvania, the next day our legislators will pretend to care about it," finalized Rothacker.

This is an animal that can live to be 50.

In Pennsylvania, people are literally releasing them after a few years, saying, 'see ya later alligator'. Literally. That is why some are calling for change.