Animal rights group calls for West Valley City zoo to close over gator incident

Local News

Darthgator, identified as the gator in a now-viral video of visitors jumping into an enclosure to rescue a handler’s hand from his jaws. (Scales and Tails Utah)

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4) – An animal rights group is calling on a West Valley City zoo to close in response to a viral video of a handler being bit by an alligator. Visitors jumped in to help the woman, with one wrestling the gator until he released the handler’s hand.

The video, taken over the weekend, shows Donnie Wiseman jumping into the enclosure to wrestle the gator – named Darthgator – after seeing the reptile latch onto the handler’s hand and begin thrashing it. The incident happened during a child’s birthday party at Scales and Tails Utah, located in West Valley City.

After being freed from the gator’s jaws, and helping Wiseman get out of the enclosure, the handler was taken to a nearby hospital. In a Monday update posted to Scales and Tails Utah’s Facebook page, handler Lindsay says she is recovering. She thanks her orthopedic surgeon who “was able to improvise and come up with a solution that should result in full use of my hand.” She also required treatment for a possible infection.

On Wednesday, Scales and Tails Utah confirmed nothing will happen to Darthgator.

“Many have asked us about Darthgator and what will happen to him. While he continues to be under our care, no harm will come to him. We have never been under the illusion that he was a cuddly creature. He is an alligator and a wild animal at heart. Darthgator was just being an alligator. Lindsay, our injured trainer, is adamant the accident wasn’t his fault and should not be harmed or killed, as well.”

PETA says they have sent a letter to Scales and Tails owner Shane Richins calling for the animals to be sent “to reputable facilities” and to close down.

“Shuttering your animal exhibits will show that you’re taking this incident seriously and taking steps to ensure that it never happens again,” the letter reads.

Scales and Tails Utah is described as “a family-run reptile and bird educational and entertainment company” that has been open since 2004.

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