The scales of justice seem to have tipped in favor of an American alligator named Zachary.
Zachary, 9 years old and 5 feet long, will be headed to a licensed wildlife sanctuary after spending time living in a fish tank as an illegal pet in New York state. His previous owners surrendered him to officials this week, the Suffolk County SPCA said in a Facebook post alongside photos of the reptile.
The alligator’s former owners were a husband and wife who had kept him in an empty fish tank, ABC 7 New York reported. The couple had purchased Zach out of state but did not have a permit to own an alligator, and said when they turned him in that they were no longer able to take care of him.
“Alligators do not make good pets, are a danger to the public, and are illegal to own without a permit from the [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation],” Suffolk County SPCA Chief Ray Gross told NBC New York. “These are very, very dangerous animals. They can inflict serious injuries or even death. ... I can’t imagine anybody sitting on a couch with an alligator curled up on their lap. It doesn’t make sense.”
NYSDEC Captain Timothy Byrnes made similar comments.
“Our message is: don’t own these,” he said.
NYSDEC and the Suffolk County SPCA are allowing owners of illegal exotic animals to turn them in without fines or charges, and urge people to not simply release such animals into the wild.
People releasing alligators on Long Island, where Suffolk County is located, is a surprisingly common problem. The SPCA noted on Facebook that one year saw 22 alligators released on Long Island.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.