HAMBURG, N.Y. (NEWSnet/AP) — The owner of an alligator recently seized by conservation officers in New York is fighting for its return.

The man says the reptile, named Albert, has shared a home with for more than three decades and is a “gentle giant” that is not a danger to anyone.

A week ago, officers met Tony Cavallaro in the driveway of his suburban Buffalo home with a warrant, before sedating the 12-foot, 750-pound alligator, taping shut its mouth and taking the gator away from the property in a van.

His license to keep Albert, who is 34 years old, had expired in 2021, Department of Environmental Conservation said. Even if it had been renewed, Cavallaro had let other people pet the alligator and get into the pool with him, providing grounds for the removal.

Cavallaro, 64, sees Albert differently. His alligator was born and raised in captivity and has not shown signs of aggression toward people or animals, he said. 

Cavallaro has hired a lawyer in hopes of having Albert returned, and is being backed by neighbors as well as as strangers through social media. An online petition has been signed by more than 120,000 people and supporters have created “Free Albert” T-shirts and buttons.

Cavallaro considers Albert “an emotional support animal.”

DEC officials declined to say where Albert is being kept. In a statement, the agency said only that he’s with “a licensed caretaker who will house and care for the animal until it can be properly transported for permanent care.”

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