According to reports, drug dealers are choosing alligators instead of pit bulls to help protect their illegal business interests.
Police report finding the gators in raids from Oakland to Baltimore to Philadelphia.
“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,” St. Joseph’s University professor Jeffrey Hyson, who specializes in the history of zoos, told The Washington Times.
"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," he said.
During a recent raid in Maryland, officers were greeted by a three-foot American alligator in the walk-in closet of a suspected drug dealer.
“My first thought was we’re definitely not touching it,” said an officer who was part of the raid. “It kept hissing, like, ‘Leave me alone.’ The owner said it was his pet. Definitely if someone saw that they’d think twice about doing something to that guy.”
Experts say the trendy fad actually has some fairly significant historical roots.
“The predominate way people think of alligators is as this fierce man-eating predator,” said Mark Barrow, the chairman of Virginia Tech’s history department. “I’m not terribly surprised that some folks may want to have these things to be cool.”
Barrow pointed out that slavery-era South imagery sometimes included portrayals of escaped slaves being attacked or eaten by alligators in swamplands.
“There is a rich history of intimidation, which is I think part of what’s going on with that,” Barrow said.