From Bathtub to Backyard: L.A. Alligator Makes a Splash

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Pets are an integral part of American society. Some people keep dogs, others keep cats, some even keep parrots or hedgehogs. Up until very recently, Laura Mattson, of Los Angeles, kept an alligator. Jaxson the alligator had been purchased at a pet store in 1967, and lived happily with Laura and her now-deceased husband Jim, until she was taken to the Los Angeles Zoo by animal control officers on January 12th.

The story of Jaxson the alligator starts as an endearing one. When she was first brought home by Jim Mattson, she was small and lived in a cage in the couple’s bedroom. When Jaxson outgrew her cage, she was moved to the bathroom, so that she could be near the tub. Of course, she just kept growing, and was moved outside to a heated pen that she shared with the Mattsons’ tortoises and feral cats. At first, she was given a kiddie pool, then, in 2005, a custom-built pond.

Jaxson did not immediately enjoy her new life outside. She would occasionally pry open the screen door to the house and return to her spot by the bathtub.

“We’ve been asked to install a retractable screen on quite a few homes but never had to screen for alligator protection,” says Frank Kerski of ScreenEx.

Later, she would sit in front of the door when she was hungry, waiting to be fed. Laura Mattson claims that Jaxson subsisted on a strict diet of raw chicken and hot dogs. The discovery of two dead cats in Jaxson’s crate has neighbors and law enforcement officials thinking otherwise. Neighbors are being encouraged to report any mysterious disappearances of pets from the past 37 years.

Alligators are a restricted species in California, meaning that they can only be owned for educational or scientific use. Even if Mattson had a wildlife permit, Jaxson would have been forced to relocate. Commander Mark Salazar of the Animal Services Department told the L.A. Times that the department is launching a criminal investigation, and Mattson may face charges for the unauthorized alligator and for the neighborhood’s missing pets.

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