Animals Can Now Be Arrested?

Tampa, Florida police officers had no choice but to subdue and arrest a nine-foot alligator who was roaming the streets.

By Kari Apted | Published

animals arrested

It may sound outlandish to suggest that police officers have arrested animals, but it does seem to fit what happened in Tampa, Florida, last week. Someone called to report a disturbance near Raymond James Stadium, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers home. The police officers who responded to the call discovered that this was no ordinary request for help managing a disorderly person or breaking up a public brawl.

Instead, a 9-foot-long alligator was roaming the city streets. The first officer approached it carefully, poking at the animal with an outstretched baton as the gator hissed and lurched at him. Tampa Police had no choice but to subdue the beast before it could harm nearby spectators.

He managed to grab the end of the gator’s tail for a second but dropped it after receiving more of the animal’s snarls. The first officer was backed by a half-dozen other officers on the blocked-off street. He asked another officer for a yellow rope, quickly twisting it into a noose that he managed to lasso over the top of the gator’s broad mouth.

Ideally, the noose would’ve slipped over the animal’s lower jaw, too, allowing the officers to close its mouth. Since it didn’t, they had to quickly figure out another way to eliminate the threat. The officer holding the rope dragged the gator away from the road’s edge.

“Ready?” one of the officers asked. “You want to jump on him?” And just like when taking down a resistant criminal, that’s what the officers did.

One went for the head while another dropped his weight onto the rest of the animal’s body. A 9-foot-long alligator can weigh more than 400 pounds—most of that muscle—and their strength makes them difficult to subdue. Even under the weight of three police officers, the gator continued to emit threatening guttural growls, its eyes cutting back toward the officers.

The officer nearest the head asked for a towel to cover the animal’s eyes and duct tape to wrap around its powerful mouth. The officer’s voice sounds surprisingly calm as he instructs another officer on how to apply the tape. They kept the gator’s eyes covered to keep it calm as they used more duct tape to fashion makeshift “handcuffs” for its legs.

Even after being taped and “cuffed,” the gator continued to lurch and hiss while Phil Walters, an alligator trapper contracted with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Nuisance Alligator Program arrived to assist. He told Tampa TV station WFLA that he was impressed with the officers’ actions. “…They did a great job. They had that thing taken care of for me.”

Walters said the gator could have caused serious vehicle accidents if it had been allowed to stay on the road. He added that he has been on a number of similar calls lately as alligator mating season usually begins in April. Animal experts at Gatorworld Orlando say the season could be starting earlier than usual this year due to the unusually warm weather.

The Tampa Police Department released the bodycam video that provides all the details of the animal’s “arrest.” It shows how close the onlookers were to the alligator, standing just off the edge of the two-lane road. It is a testament to the officers’ bravery that no onlookers were harmed—although it’s likely that more than one officer-turned-gator-wrangler woke up with sore muscles the next morning.