Subscribe | UPI Odd Newsletter Subscribe LOS ANGELES, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Los Angeles animal control officials said an 8-foot alligator seized from a home had been owned by the family for nearly 40 years. The Los Angeles Animal Services Department said the female alligator was found Monday in a wooden crate in the back yard of a home in the Van Nuys neighborhood. Advertisement Investigators said two cat carcasses were also found inside the crate. They said the home was previously searched on a tip, but animal services officers believe the alligator was moved prior to that search in an attempt to evade detection. Ron Gorecki, 53, who helped care for Jaxson the alligator following the death of his brother-in-law, said the alligator was purchased at a city pet shop 37 years ago. Gorecki's sister, Laura Mattson, has been the animal's primary caretaker since the death of her husband. She said Jaxson subsisted on a diet of chicken and hot dogs. "She was so docile, she would let rats eat the hot dogs out of her mouth," Mattson told KNTV. She said the alligator was in the box with the cat carcasses in an attempt to hide her from authorities. Advertisement #Alligator spooning a kitten! Tonight hear from a woman in #VanNuys who says this shows how docile 36 year old Jaxson the alligator was with kittens. At 11, Jaxson's owners are also showing us thousands of dollars of receipts they say will prove it. #SoCal #LosAngeles #Gator A photo posted by Gadi Schwartz (@gadinbcla) on Jan 14, 2015 at 6:28pm PST Authorities said a criminal investigation has been opened and the family members could face charges for illegally keeping a wild animal.