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Reptile illegal pets dropped off in Holtsville at SPCA Amnesty Day

Roy Gross, Chief of the Suffolk SPCA, holds

Roy Gross, Chief of the Suffolk SPCA, holds an American alligator during an amnesty day for illegally possessed animals held at the Holtsville Ecology Center, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

Mindful of where he placed his fingers, Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross held an alligator in each hand -- grateful they came to him instead of having to be captured in the wild.

The owner of the 2-year-old female alligators, each more than 2 feet long, dropped them off in a heavy-duty pink container with a lid.

They were among three American alligators and eight turtles, including the snapping variety, surrendered Saturday during the SPCA's annual exotic pet Amnesty Day at the Town of Brookhaven's Holtsville Ecology Center.

It was a chance for owners of illegal critters to hand them over -- no questions asked.

"If someone tips us off and we come to you, you will be facing charges, and if you dump one illegally, you will be facing criminal charges," Gross warned. But every day is amnesty day in a sense, he said. The SPCA will accept surrendered illegal pets any day of the year, with owners spared fines or possible jail time.

"People think they're doing the right thing and they're caring for it properly," Gross said of exotic animals. But many of the animals that are turned in are malnourished, underdeveloped or both.

The 11 reptiles netted Saturday were far fewer than last year's 25 animals, which included two marmoset monkeys, a green anaconda and a Western diamondback rattlesnake.

The turtles and alligators will go to an animal sanctuary in Massachusetts, said Michael Ralbovsky, a herpetologist who attended the event along with state Department of Environmental Conservation staff.

"These animals grow beyond people's control," said Daniel Losquadro, the Brookhaven highway superintendent who oversees the Ecology Center. The gators, for example, grow about a foot a year.

"We don't want people to compound one bad mistake with another," he said. "You made the mistake in the first place of keeping an animal you never should have had; don't compound that mistake by releasing this animal out into the wild."


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