Officials in Suffolk County say they have recovered a record number of illegal alligators from homes on Long Island this year, with the latest one found on Friday inside an Islip home.
Police found the 13-inch alligator in a tank in the house while on an unrelated investigation there. It is the 20th alligator found in the past 16 months on Long Island, officials said.
"In my nearly 30 years, I have never seen this many recovered on Long Island; it is bizarre and we are very, very concerned," said Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross.
Alligators are not indigenous to Long Island, and owning alligators is illegal in New York State. It was unclear whether the owner in Islip was charged on Friday. The alligator was purchased in Pennsylvania and brought back to Long Island, Gross said.
Illegal ownership is a violation with a $250 fine. Illegally releasing or abandoning an alligator into a public area is a misdemeanor punishable with up to one year and/or a fine of $1,000.
"You'd be better off if you stick to your dogs and your cats, or go to a local pet store and get a legal reptile," Gross said.
Eighteen of the alligators found in the past 16 months were discovered in homes or public places in Suffolk while two were in Nassau. Owners often purchase the reptiles over the Internet, officials said.
The agency has responded to alligator calls at a playground in Lake Ronkonkoma and in Huntington park as well as in malls -- even an Applebee's restaurant. The agency held a reptile amnesty event in September at which people were invited to turn in their illegal pets. Another amnesty program is being planned for the spring.
Alligators grow about a foot a year until they are 6 or 7 years old. The Islip alligator was younger than 1 year and was being held at the Suffolk SPCA until it could be sent to a reptile sanctuary, Gross said.