- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2013

Looking for more bite than bark?

Drug dealers, long associated with aggressive dogs like pit bulls, are of late opting for a more cold-blooded accomplice to protect their business interests: the alligator.

The scaly version of the guard dog isn’t showing up just in drug dens near its native Southern swamplands, police are finding the reptiles in raids from Oakland to Philadelphia.

Last month, during a raid in Baltimore, police found three small alligators while searching the apartment of a suspected dealer. That case was among a smattering of reports linking alligator ownership to drug dealers seeking to guard their stashes or simply send a message.

Ruthless and intimidating predators, alligators embody characteristics that might be attractive to people looking to mimic the pop-culture portrayals of big-time drug dealers.

“I think a lot of this comes back to the desire to own something exotic as well as the power of controlling a fierce animal. By keeping it in your control, you are saying something about yourself as an individual,” said Jeffrey Hyson, a professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia who specializes in the history of zoos. “I would imagine for some people who have stuff they’d like to guard, a pit bull is great but a gator is even better.”

‘It kept hissing’

An anonymous tip led a team of tactical officers from the Anne Arundel County Police Department to a trailer home in Jessup, Md., in search of drugs one early morning in November 2012. What they encountered inside the home was out of the ordinary in a big, angry way.

A 3-foot American alligator in a walk-in closet snapped and hissed at officers as they forced their way through a bedroom door.

“My first thought was we’re definitely not touching it,” said a police detective who was part of the raid. “It kept hissing, like, ‘Leave me alone.’”

The door to the closet in which the alligator was contained had been removed and replaced with a small plywood barrier. Inside was a kiddie pool that served as makeshift refuge for the alligator, which the owner had dubbed “Little G.” Just feet away from the angry gator, officers found 5 ounces of marijuana, police said.

“I don’t know if it was guarding the drugs. The owner said it was his pet,” said the detective, who agreed to speak on the condition that he not be named because he works undercover. “Definitely if someone saw that they’d think twice about doing something to that guy.”

Little G’s owner, Michael Golden, disputed the notion that he had the 4-year-old alligator to serve as a guard.

“That’s crazy. You can’t train them,” said Mr. Golden, 33. “They are not very wise animals. The only time they will listen to you or follow you is if they are hungry and you are holding food.”

Mr. Golden, who pleaded guilty to possession charges and served 10 days in jail, said he took over care for Little G from a friend who moved out of state.

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