Baby Alligator

As a parent, I’m not immune to the stress that comes with planning the annual birthday party extravaganza that so many kids demand.

But when I first heard about the current trend in Florida of upgrading the apparently passé pool party with the addition of a live alligator, I was scandalized.

For real? An alligator? In your pool?!

Pool Parties Gone Wild

Yes, way! It turns out that a Tampa-based alligator attraction was having a tough economic go of it — until the outfit discovered that there was no legal impediment to hiring out wild animals as party entertainment in Florida.

Here’s how it’s done:

1. You grow a slew of alligators in your Florida Fish and Wildlife-approved facility under a legally permissive system that allows you to purchase a relatively inexpensive permit to keep and breed gators.

2. You pick out the more relaxed juveniles among the bunch, and then make sure to keep them decently socialized to human company.

3. You bind the jaws of said juvenile alligators, and then take the reptiles to any pool-themed birthday bash whose attendees are happy to pay (at $175 a pop) for the pleasure of swimming with a wild animal who's willing to kill them.

Don't think a juvenile could offer much resistance? Here’s a clip of an Ohio wrangler’s recent experience with a well-motivated “baby.”

Why This Is a Wildly Bad Idea

Just in case it’s not already obvious to you, my opinion on this newfangled pool party practice is decidedly and unreservedly against its continuation as a legal means of animal use.

It’s not as if I’m immune to the excitement offered by almost any wild animal experience. And I can certainly understand why a parent might want to impress their child with the “miracle of nature,” as I’ve heard some people explain.

But here’s the rub: Alligators are wild animals that belong — where else? — in the wild.

They remain nondomesticated creatures, and as such, they should ideally have no human contact outside a veterinary setting, a humane zoo facility or an investigative facility, such as a captive breeding program.

So why all the hand-wringing over just a few baby gators?

The trouble with this novel idea goes beyond the possibility of a poor jaw-taping job: Instead of teaching kids that they should have a deep respect for the natural world, this practice is more likely to show them that wild animals are party playthings that anyone with enough cash — and hubris — can buy.

Check out more opinion pieces on Vetstreet.