"When we execute a drug search warrant, we never know what we will find," Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan said in a statement Thursday. "Sometimes it is an armed drug dealer. Sometimes it is the drug dealer's terrified family. On this day, it was an alligator."
The juvenile American alligator was living in the kitchen of the Chester County home, some 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia, where authorities executed a search warrant last week.
An adult American alligator grows to be 8 to 10 feet long.
Police also found heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana, suspected fetanyl, drug paraphernalia, material for packaging and selling drugs, and more than $5,000 in cash, according to the Chester County District Attorney's Office.
"Drug dealers will do just about anything to project an image of danger in order to protect their drugs and cash," Hogan said. "Some drug dealers use pit bulls or snakes. These drug traffickers kept an alligator in the house. But at the end of the day, the police seized their drugs and money, and the alligator is headed to the zoo."
Irvin "Gotti" Hawkins, 31, Aki Gathright, 35, and Tyrone Jackson, 40, were all at the residence in South Coatesville, which Hawkins was renting, authorities said. The three men were arrested for drug trafficking and related offenses.
There is no separate charge for possession of an alligator under Pennsylvania criminal law, according to the district attorney's office.
The alligator was placed in the care of the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, Delaware. The zoo will house the reptile through the summer before transferring it to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in Florida.
"We will provide care for the alligator and ensure it is healthy during its stay with the zoo,” Brint Spencer, Brandywine Zoo's director, said in a statement Thursday.