Neighbors complained to the city about the smell and noises coming from the dozens of animals in the yard on Brewton Court. But what surprised them most is what was in the cage near the pond.
It was an American Alligator: About 3 to 4 feet long.
"I know there's alligators around here in the ponds," said Seth Dennis, who lives nearby. "I've fished in these ponds. The fact she or he had one trapped in a cage – I don't know what [they were] going to do with that."
Police said the alligator was just one of the dozens of animals Victor and Julie Vu were keeping on their property: 22 birds (chickens, roosters, a pheasant), one Pig and 21 turtles.
Investigators came to the house after the complaints from neighbors and issued both a code violation and misdemeanor charges to the homeowners. It took officers well over an hour to fish out the turtles, which were in the couple's swimming pool.
"There was a snapping turtle, soft shell turtles, and some red-ear sliders … which are invasive species," said Lt. George Wells from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Clearwater Police are asking the State Attorney's Office to charge the homeowners with a misdemeanor count of animal abuse.
"Living conditions inside the house were fine. None of the animals were being kept inside the house," said Elizabeth Watts, spokeswoman for Clearwater Public Safety. "Obviously – outside the house was a different story: Access to water and food supply. Some of the cages would be too small. I know one of the birds was in a cage where it couldn't even turn around."
Keeping a gator on property means another misdemeanor as well.
"It's against the law to begin with," Wells said. "They are very dangerous. You don't want a little kid, animal, or … an adult to get injured."
Police said it appears the couple was going to eat at least some of the animals.
"The indication we're getting from a preliminary assessment that they are being used as a food supply," Watts said.
Vernon Yates, of Wildlife Rescue and Rehab took the gator. Animal control officers took the rest to the county shelter where a vet will examine them.
"I'm not against people having pets," Yates said. "But you shouldn't go messing with the wild stuff. If it's wild, it should be left wild."
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