The City of Brotherly Love is full of attractions. There’s the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’ House, Independence Hall, and enough cheesesteak to give you a year-long case of heartburn. But a full-grown alligator isn’t something you’re liable to see while wandering the streets of Philadelphia—unless you happened to be standing in front of a row home on the north side of town on Thursday, April 18.
That’s when an eight-foot alligator named Big Mack was removed from its “home” in a basement after the untimely separation of its owners. The city’s Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) hauled the giant reptile out of its pen and secured it for safe transport to a nearby animal shelter.
One of Big Mack’s owners—a woman identified only as Yali—asked ACCT to come in and rescue the alligator. She said her estranged husband hadn’t fed the basement-dwelling lizard in more than a month. “I wanted him out of here,” she told CBS News Philadelphia. “My husband had him since 2011. We’ve had him all these years … in the basement.”
Sarah Barnett, ACCT’s Executive Director, told Fox News Digital that her team was expecting a much smaller gator when they responded to Yali’s unusual call for help. “When we walked up to the padlock, there was this little window on the door, like you see in these prisons in movies,” she said. “We all kind of peered in, and we just went: ‘Oh crap.’”
Then Barnett and her team went to work. One officer wrestled Big Mack out of his holding tank with a control pole. Another agent sat on his back. Barnett immobilized the tail while a different team member attempted to secure the snout.
Fox29 posted a video of the ordeal on Twitter. It shows Big Mack pinned beneath a bench press while the five agents discuss best practices for removing him from the home. “Just muzzle it,” says one officer, from behind the safety of the camera, while another tries to lasso Mack’s snout with a roll of tape. “Once [the mouth] is closed they don’t have a lot of strength to open it,” says Barnett.
2/3. LISTEN: 8-foot long Philadelphia alligator hisses at Philly Animal Control officers as several hold down the gator while another officer attempts to tie his snout shut. pic.twitter.com/Tw4NTIRHvv
— Steve Keeley (@KeeleyFox29) April 18, 2023
Eventually, the rescue team subdued the 12-year-old alligator before carrying it up the basement stairs, through Yali’s living room, and out into the light of day. According to local news outlets, they put Mack in the back of an animal control truck and shuttled him to an adoption center before transferring him to an alligator sanctuary.
WATCH/UPDATE: North Philadelphia alligator ‘Big Mack’ gets to take first swim at alligator sanctuary holding facility. After 12yrs in a North Philly basement, growing to 8 feet, 127 pounds, now getting sunlight & place to swim to get ready soon for larger Florida forever home. pic.twitter.com/N9MJ8dER6r
— Steve Keeley (@KeeleyFox29) April 22, 2023
Fox29 posted another video on Twitter, filmed at the sanctuary, of what was likely Mack’s first swim in 12 years. The staff there is exposing him to sunlight and heat lamps in preparation for a permanent transfer to Florida.
While Pennsylvania exotic pet law says “it is unlawful to recklessly engage in conduct that places another person in danger of attack from exotic wildlife,” ACCT decided not to pursue criminal charges in the case, stating they’d rather people like Yali reach out for help instead of being scared of punishment.