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Florida company brings alligators to pool parties

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mi-alligator-kiss-460-CP03329925.jpg Destini Clarke kisses French Fry, a 5-year-old female gator at Alligator Attraction, in Madeira Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, Cherie Diez)

Swimming with alligators doesn't seem like something anyone would do for fun, but one Florida company is encouraging people to do just that.  

Bob Barrett, the owner of Alligator Attraction in Madeira Beach near Tampa, brings small gators to private homes for backyard pool parties.

"Clown party, Chuck E. Cheese party, they've all been done," Barrett told the New York Daily News.

According to the paper, Barrett was bringing alligators to birthday parties anyway, and decided to go one step further and put them right in the pool, their mouths held shut with a gauze-like tape.   

Bay News 9 in Tampa has video of two girls swimming with a gator in their backyard pool. According to the TV station, the guests take a safety course before getting in the pool with gator.

Alligator Attraction charges $175 for a gator pool party, plus mileage if applicable, according to the company's website.

Officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife are visiting Alligator Attractions today to inspect the business's permits after receiving some complaints.

Aside from the obvious dangers to children if the alligator were to become aggressive, there are also concerns over how the pool parties affect the gators themselves.

"To me, the chlorine and the band don't harm the animal. I would say it's very stressful to the animal, it's something I don't think is worth it," Bob Johnson, the curator of reptiles and amphibians for the Toronto Zoo told CBC News.

Johnson explained that alligators have a nictitating membrane that covers their eyes when they dive, and that offers protection. But he was concerned that the alligators were being stressed purely for entertainment and financial benefit.

"I'm not sure what the benefit is to children, I'd be concerned about it as a parent myself," he added.

For his part, Barrett says that Johnson is correct when he says an alligator would be stressed out by the circumstances - but only if that alligator hadn't been trained first.

"If we grabbed a wild gator and threw them in the pool, they'd be stressed out about it, no doubt about it," Barrett told CBC News.

Barett says it takes "a couple of years" on average to train the alligators before they're ready to meet people. He has 50 alligators at Alligator Attractions and says that they're used to interacting with people and being touched and petted.

"They are smart enough to realize, if I do this for a little while I'm going to get a big food reward. You can't tame an alligator but you can train an alligator," says Barrett.

While he doesn't keep figures, Barrett estimates that the demand for alligator pool parties has gone up 100 per cent since last year.

What do you think about alligator pool parties? Should alligators be used in this way? Is this entertainment gone too far?

(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' replies)

Tags: Community, POV

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