New York

Gators in Prospect Park — all in a day’s work for NYC Animal Care and Control field officer


The four-foot alligator found in Prospect Park last week amazed the city and made national headlines, but for Kevin Sexton, a 15-year veteran field manager for New York Animal Care and Control, it elicited little more than a shrug.

“Not surprised. We’ve had a couple come through,” he told the Daily News. “We actually had one a few years back that was found in Flushing Meadow Park. Around the same size. And same idea it was dumped off in the park.”

An alligator, called Godzilla, was found in the Prospect Park lake in Brooklyn on Feb. 19, 2023.

Sexton and his team have wrangled all manner of creatures, great and small. Everything from errant cattle that bust loose on their way to the slaughterhouse to tropical snakes being peddled illegally online by a dealer in Queens.

Sexton has dangled from the Manhattan Bridge and held up subway service to rescue cats and climbed into cherry pickers to free red-tailed hawks from building safety netting.

The most exotic animal he’s corralled?

“We had to remove a python,” he said. “It was about 14 feet long. And that was from a home. It was seized because they’re illegal to keep in the city.”

In fact, city health code 161 lists all manner of pets are not allowed in the five boroughs.

This rare albino cobra was seized by Animal Care and Control field officers in New York City.

Unless permitted by the city health commissioner New Yorkers may not keep a wolf, fox, coyote, hyena, dingo, jackal, dhole, fennec fox, raccoon dog, zorro, bush dog, aardwolf, cape hunting dog, for example.

Similar prohibitions exist on feline species like lions, tigers, leopards, ocelots, jaguars, pumas, panthers, mountain lions, cheetahs, wild cats, cougars, bobcats, lynxes, servals, caracals, jaguarundis and margays, according to the health code.

Perhaps the most famous violation of the code was by cab driver Antoine Yates, who kept his 450-lb. Siberian-Bengal tiger, Ming, in a spare apartment at 2430 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. in Harlem along with a five-foot alligator.

Authorities caught a whiff of Yates’s mini-wild kingdom when doctors at Harlem hospital reported the unusual injuries he suffered after he was forced to seek treatment when the jungle cat mauled him.

These ducks were confiscated by New York City Animal Care and Control.

A special NYPD unit was called and an officer repelled down the side of the Hamilton Houses to the window of apartment 5E where they were able to dart the creature with a tranquilizer and remove him to an animal sanctuary in Ohio with the pet alligator, that Yates named Al.

Sexton said he’s never encountered an animal that wild, over the last five years his team has recovered 5899 creatures in the urban jungle, including six alligators —Wally and Bobby from Staten Island, Toby and Tick Tock from Brooklyn and most recently he rescued a four-foot gator from Flushing Meadow.

For all the sharp teeth and claws he deals with on a daily basis, Sexton said he’s only been nipped once.

“Actually, I had been bitten when I first started. I was probably a year in. I can try to make these stories really great and people would love them, but it was actually a kitten that got me,” he said.

This goat is one of the critters recently grabbed by Animal Care and Control field officers.

Sexton survived, but he said any bite can be dangerous because of bacteria from the animal’s mouth that can infect the wound.

ACC’s running list has some of the most common animals around: 2244 raccoons, 802 possums and 781 chickens, including fighting cocks, laying hens and Easter chicks.

They’ve recovered 9 pocket gophers, 6 hedgehogs, a wallaby, a wombat, a Western hognose snake, an African clawed frog and many others.

NYPD Officer Martin Duffy rappelled down the side of 2430 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. in Harlem to tranquilize a 400-pound Bengal-Siberian tiger named Ming.

ACC works with the NYPD, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to help enforce Health Code 161.

Over the last roughly three years, there have been 1,750 311 calls for illegal animals to the DOHMH. Mostly rooster complaints (819), followed by general farm animal calls (332). There were 76 calls for illegal snakes, 51 turtle calls, 30 calls for pet monkeys, 15 ferrets and five iguanas, all banned under 161, which carries a $500 fine.

Inspectors found a Capuchin monkey on Foster Ave. at the Professional Collision autobody repair shop in Flatbush, Brooklyn and issued a summons to the owner David Dashosh.

Livestock herded by Animal Care and Control field officers in New York City.

The shop has since shut down — a torn sticker with the word SEIZED has been plastered to the door by the state Department of Finance and Taxation for the owner’s $956,752.55 in outstanding debt to New York, according to online records.

He failed to show up for his April 2022 hearing on the monkey business and now owes an additional $1000 to the city.

What’s allowed and not allowed in the city isn’t always easy to determine, even for city enforcers.

Chen Pangchich, who owns KHC Aquarium on Northern Blvd. in Queens, has been hit twice under the statute for harboring stingrays. Most recently, on Dec. 29, inspectors also caught him with an electric catfish.

“A customer traded with me for the electric catfish,” he told The News. “I didn’t know it was an electric catfish.”

In his defense, Panchich said that he beat a 2017 earlier summons when inspectors found nine adult black diamond stingrays in his shop.

He may have a good case to beat the $500 fine he got for the catfish and the most recent stingrays. The animals don’t appear to be covered by the statute on banned animals.

This Wallaby, Howie was turned into NYC Animal Care and Control.

“What’s the reason why we’re not allowed to keep a stingray,” he asked. “I don’t get it. What’s the problem?”

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Mae Dawn, who owns Rockaway Pet Supply on Rockaway Beach Blvd., got dinged last December for having a scorpion in her shop.

The statute does prohibit venomous insects, including scorpions.

“Are you aware of how many scorpions are fatal?” Dawn asked when called about her pet. “Two,” she said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 1,500 species of scorpion and 30 are venomous enough to be fatal.

“I’m allowed to have it here. The kids like to come in and look at it. It’s educational,” she said. There’s a sign on the tank of the half-quarter-sized insect warning visitors not to put their hands in there, Dawn said.

She dismissed the health inspector’s summons as an overreach.

“I’m allowed to have them. I’m not selling them. If they didn’t read the sign, they couldn’t even see it,” she said. “I’m 55 years old. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’m tired of the bull—t.”


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