Alligators typically won’t bother adult people, but pets and small children have more reason to be wary of the predators. That’s the lesson one woman in St. Petersburg, Florida learned on Wednesday.
A Facebook post by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said the woman’s pet dog, a 75-pound chow mix, was wandering near Joe’s Creek when a 9-foot gator attacked and dragged the dog into the creek.
Deputies said they were unable to save the dog, though a trapper was called for the alligator and it was removed from the creek. The post did not say if the alligator would be relocated or put down.
Deputies said they were making the post to “warn parents of small children and pet owners to be cautious around water.”
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The post inspired some outraged comments – most at the dog owner, rather than the gator. Many people commenting on the post wondered if the woman was allowing her dog to wander without a leash.
“My husband works to the left of that creek and he said the dog was unleashed and he jumped in the water and was swimming around,” wrote one woman. “Then as he was climbing out of the water the gator grabbed and dragged him back in right in front of everybody. Very sad. That's why we have leash laws!!!”
“Again, keep your dog on a leash...” another wrote. “You live here, you should know better. Sorry.”
Others defended the woman, offering her condolences and saying people needed to leave her alone after losing a member of her family.
Alligators tend to choose their meals by size, and many pets and small children fit within their parameters. They mainly hunt at dusk and at night, and once the prey is caught it is typically swallowed whole. If the animal is too large to be swallowed whole, gators will stash the kill underwater until it has become softer from rot.
The Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program reported that the worst areas for alligator attacks in 2016 were Orlando, Sarasota and Tampa.