Lack of a Valid License Forces Man to Part With His Beloved Alligator

By: Savvy Dime Staff | Published: Mar 31, 2024

Keeping an exotic animal as a pet may sound like a fun idea at first. But having a valid license to do it is a crucial part of this endeavor.

Tony Cavallaro of Hamburg, New York, learned the hard way that not having a proper license could rob him off his beloved exotic pet.

The Alligator Is No Danger, Pet Owner Claims

Cavallaro’s pet alligator, Albert, was recently seized by authorities. At the time of his capture, Albert weighed 750 pounds and measured 11 feet long.

Triptych of pictures of a baby alligator with its pet owner

Source: Tony Cavallaro/Sweet Buffalo/Facebook

Cavallaro said, “He’s just a big baby.” Claiming that Albert had been raised in captivity, Cavallaro reported that the alligator never attacked other animals or humans.

Plenty of Love for Albert Goes Around

In fact, Albert was also getting affection from other humans. Cavallaro’s 84-year-old mother, for example, helped take care of Albert when her son went on vacation.

A baby alligator in human hands

Source: Los Muertos Crew/Pexels

Cavallaro’s acquaintances, young and old alike, have also been in Albert’s vicinity. They got to pet Albert, pose for pictures, and even get in the pool with him.

Luxurious Home Improvements for Albert

There’s no doubting Cavallaro’s love for Albert — the man modified his house just to accommodate his pet.

An alligator in the corner of a room next to an indoor pool

Source: Tony Cavallaro/Sweet Buffalo/Facebook

Cavallaro customized his house by adding heated floors, an indoor pond with a waterfall and jet spa, and tropical plants for Albert. These additions cost Cavallaro $120,000.

From Reptile City With Love

Losing Albert is a big blow to Cavallaro, who has long been fascinated with reptiles. He previously owned caimans and lizards.

Caiman on a log in Peru

Source: Juan Carlos Dominguez/Wikimedia Commons

He bought Albert at a reptile show in Ohio, when the alligator was just two months old. Cavallaro, now 64, has spent around 30 years together with his pet before it was taken away.

Beware of the Expired License

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation succinctly explained why the pet was taken away in a Facebook post.

Logo of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation with green background and white fonts

Source: Department of Environmental Conservation/Wikipedia

The post stated, “The individual formerly possessed a DEC license for the alligator, but the license expired in 2021 and was not renewed.”


Health and Safety Issues With the Exotic Pet

The DEC also stated that Albert had a number of health issues, “including blindness in both eyes and spinal complications.” On the other hand, Cavallaro denied that Albert was blind (though he did have cataracts), or had a spine problem at the time of his capture by the authorities.

A sign saying all animals are capable of biting hanging from a wire fence

Source: Randy Laybourne/Unsplash

Currently, a licensed caretaker houses and cares for Albert before he can be moved permanently to another location. The DEC also planned to consult with a licensed veterinarian to determine other issues with Albert and make final decisions regarding the alligator.


Dangerous Animal License a Requirement in New York

In the state of New York, ownership of “dangerous animals” is only legal with a Dangerous Animal License from the DEC.

A person lying down in front of a huge crocodile with its mouth open

Source: Rutpratheep Nilpechr/Unsplash

Owners are required to be appropriately trained and experienced, while having facilities with all the necessary safeguards to handle each of the dangerous animals they own.


The Owner Was Unsuccessful in Clarifying Rule Changes

For Albert and Cavallaro, the license became a problem. Cavallaro’s license expired in 2021 and was not renewed.

A man in a gray suit sitting in front of an open laptop covering his face

Source: Yan Krukau/Unsplash

The rules had also changed at that time. Cavallaro sought clarifications to the changes, but said his phone calls and emails had been unanswered. Therefore, he did not renew the license.


The License Can Still Be Revoked

But the DEC is adamant there’s an additional clause to the rule. Despite owning a proper license, it can be revoked.

A red forbidden sign

Source: Din Hou/Unsplash

“Public contact with the animal is prohibited,” stated the DEC. If a license is revoked, the animal’s relocation will follow.


All the Efforts to Bring Albert Back

Still, Cavallaro plans to fight to get Albert back. He has hired a lawyer as a part of this effort.

A woman wearing a purple T-shirt with the words Free Albert the Alligator

Source: DeansShopByLD/Etsy

Albert and Cavallaro have also garnered support online. There’s a petition with more than 130,000 signatures to return Albert to Cavallaro. Fans have also reportedly made T-shirts and buttons that say “Free Albert.” And there’s even a song written about the Albert debacle on Facebook.


Regulations vs. Compassion: The Albert Story

Many organizations, including Born Free USA, have warned citizens against keeping exotic animals as pets. There are risks to public safety and human health to contend with.

A man standing next to a crocodile in the water

Source: Shae Deveraux/Pexels

But in the case of Albert, who has been well-kept for more than 30 years, do the same rules apply? For Tony Cavallaro, it seems compassion wins over regulations.