The Los Angeles Animal Services Department found an 8-foot male alligator in the backyard of a home in Van Nuys, Calif, and he wasn't exactly a recent arrival to the neighborhood. Named Jaxson, the reptile had lived there for 37 years. Jaxson was soon transported to the Los Angeles Zoo, where its health was being evaluated, reports the Los Angeles Times. Homeowner Laura Mattson says that her husband bought the gator as a baby in 1977, and that she and her brother, Ron Gorecki, have looked after it since her husband died two years ago. "We tried to give him a good home," says Gorecki. Of his brother-in-law he says, "He loved (the alligator), it was his pride and joy." The gator's presence, he says, was an open secret. "Everybody knew Jaxson."
Animal control also found two cat carcasses in Jaxson's crate, and they're asking neighbors who've lost small pets at any point in the past four decades to get in touch. "They’re basically saying we’re taking the animals and feeding them to the alligator, and that’s not true," Gorecki tells CBS. The siblings say they also took care of neutered feral cats brought to them by a rescue group, but they never fed them to Jaxson. Mattson and Gorecki did not have a permit for the alligator, according to animal control. The search followed a local resident's report of seeing the gator, though Jaxson somehow eluded officers on an initial visit in August. (In 2011, a suburban Chicago man was caught keeping a 4-foot alligator as a pet in his home.)