This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.
This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.
Rancho Cucamonga Man Wants His Pet Alligator 'Chopper' Back
A Rancho Cucamonga man is heartbroken after state wildlife officials took away his beloved pet Chopper—an alligator that used to greet children from his front yard.
Authorities seized Chopper on Thursday when somebody upstairs realized that Chris Cassaro, who owned the six-foot reptile for three decades, lacked the proper paperwork with the state. Cassaro had a permit with the city to own Chopper, along with a local newspaper clipping marking the city council's decision to unanimously approve the permit, but lacked a state permit for keeping exotic animals such as the alligator or, say, a monocled cobra. Cassaro, a former zookeeper and animal control officer, having a hard time coping with his time away from Chopper. "My alligator is no longer here and I miss her," he told NBC 4.
"If I have to sell my house and live in a cardboard box and my alligator can live in that cardboard box, I'm willing to give full compliance. I want her home."
Chopper has spent a lifetime around humans, as Cassaro owned her since she was foot-long baby and kept her in a pen in his front yard. She even once made an appearance on the TV show Fear Factor. Neighbors greeted her every day as they walked by Cassaro's house and some considered her an unofficial 'mascot' for the city of Rancho Cucamonga. Local children staged a rally for TV news cameras on Friday evening, chanting "Bring Chopper back!" to show support for Cassaro. "I'm missing having her, because it's neat having her there," a neighbor told NBC 4.
Cassaro says he didn't know he needed an additional state permit to keep Chopper, and says he will apply for one to bring home his beloved gator. For the time being, Chopper is being held at an exotic animal sanctuary in Phelan, where she was given a clean bill of health upon admittance—a testament to her owner's loving care.