The animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked the Scales and Tails petting zoo in West Valley City to shutter after a handler was bitten on the hand by an alligator.
PETA representative Debbie Metzler wrote a letter to Shane Richins, the owner of the petting zoo, urging him “to release the animals at Scales and Tails to reputable, accredited facilities.”
Scales and Tails employee Lindsay Bull was taken to a hospital after an 8-foot-long alligator bit down on her hand during a feeding. On Monday, she said a surgeon performed a procedure that should mean she won’t lose function in her hand. Bull said she plans to return to the job once she recovers.
Video obtained by FOX 13 shows that the alligator, known as Darthgator, bit Bull’s hand and attempted to roll, a common predatory move meant to dismember prey. Bull rolled with him in order to keep her hand, before a bystander, later identified as Donnie Wiseman, jumped into the enclosure to hold the animal down.
After the alligator let go of Bull, she helped Wiseman scramble to safety as children watched.
PETA spokesperson Brooke Rossi said in a news release that Scales and Tails, which has been in operation since 2004, “is not in line with current thinking on wild animals and poses a risk to humans, who shouldn’t be touching them in the first place.”
“Encouraging people to pay to see an apex predator used as a birthday party prop is greed courting disaster,” Metzler said in the release. “PETA is calling on this dangerous business to let these wild animals go to facilities where they could have good lives in an appropriate habitat and be respected enough to be left in peace.”
Metzler wrote in her letter that alligators are fearful of humans and would naturally rather flee than fight. She said that the conditions of petting zoos, including being in a cramped pool and being forced into unwanted contact with humans, caused the animal to become aggressive.
“Continuing to exploit them is a recipe for disaster,” Metzler wrote. “Staring at depressed, frustrated alligators confined to glass tanks teaches us nothing about these remarkable animals.”
The petting zoo purchased Darthgator from a breeder in Florida in 2009. He is one of four crocodilians at the zoo, which also has a cayman, a crocodile and a smaller alligator named Gatortot.
Scales and Tails did not immediately respond to the Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment.