Legal alligator sales in Metro Detroit are causing a problem most don’t know about -- the dumping of gators

Allen Park residents can’t own alligators longer than 6 inches

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – People are buying alligators as pets in Michigan and them dumping them into local waterways when they get too big.

Local 4 Investigators exposed the issue late last year and since then we’ve learned more about the varying laws across Metro Detroit.

The laws change from city to city and sometimes it’s illegal to sell them, other times licensed shops can sell them but residents can’t own them.

The legality of selling and owning alligators in Metro Detroit revealed a bigger problem with city codes throughout the area.

Read more: Can you own a pet alligator in Metro Detroit? Depends on which city you live in

In Allen Park, for example, it’s illegal for residents to own alligators longer than six inches. But pet stores can still purchase and sell them.

That brought Local 4 Investigators to the Critter Shop on Ecorse Road in Allen Park. We learned they were selling alligators there after a viewer sent us a tip. We sent a producer in undercover to investigate.

Producer goes undercover at pet shop in Allen Park

When our producer arrived, they were able to confirm the shop did have alligators for sale.

Technically, that is legal under Allen Park city code. However, residents of Allen Park are strictly prohibited from owning the alligators as soon as they grow to six inches long.

Our undercover producer asked questions about buying the alligator, but nobody at the store explained the laws to them.

The person at the store did say the alligators can get up to 12 feet long. They also said when the alligators get too big people will “take them to a gator farm.” There are already around 200 alligators at a Michigan sanctuary.

Michigan sanctuary cares for 200 alligators

The Critchlow Sanctuary in Athens, Michigan, has people caring for around 200 alligators that were abandoned or abused.

Lina Kelly runs the sanctuary and sees the problems first hand. The alligators can get up to 14 to 15 feet long and can live more than 70 years.

“They deserve to live just as much as anybody else and if you’re not going to take care of it, then don’t get it in the first place for its entire lifetime,” Kelly said.

Kelly wishes pet stores would inform customers about the laws in their city when it comes to reptile ownership.

Click here to learn more about the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary.

What Allen Park officials have to say

Local 4 reached out to the City of Allen Park and shared our findings.

The Legal Affairs Committee is reviewing the current city ordinances and will be working with pet stores to make sure they are not selling alligators to Allen Park residents.

When Local 4 asked Allen Park City Administrator Mark Kibby to explain why the city seems to give pet stores a pass he was not willing to speak with us on camera.

What different Metro Detroit cities say about owning alligators

Detroit residents can’t own alligators, but Detroit code also says licensed pet stores can own them.

In Troy, you can own them, but you’d have to get a city permit first. In Canton Township it’s illegal to “keep, harbor, breed, exchange or buy a dangerous animal.”

Westland code is just like Allen Park’s, licensed pet stores can sell alligators but residents who keep them would be breaking the law.

Click here to learn more about alligator ownership laws in Metro Detroit.

Our investigations into alligator sales have also captured the attention of lawmakers in Lansing. Local 4 spoke with Sen. Dayna Polehanki’s office and have been informed that her office is working on a bill to address the sale of alligators in Michigan.

Read: More investigations coverage

Have a case you’d like us to look into? Reach the Local 4 investigative team at 313-962-9348, or email Karen Drew at

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.