COLUMBIA — Boone County Animal Control on Monday proposed charging Ken Henderson, known as the "alligator man," with a $2,592.75 fine for suspicion of keeping dangerous wild animals without registration, animal neglect, abandonment and abuse.
Henderson, 66, says he's a member of the Global Environmental Education Foundation, which is known for promotion of exhibiting exotic animals. He brought his animals to the Boone County Fair in 2010 and travels to schools, fairs and nursing homes with his critters.
He was indicted on three counts of animal neglect and seven counts of animal abuse on July 15, and seven counts of keeping wild animals without registration on July 11. Animal Control collected seven of Henderson's alligators.
During a hearing for Henderson Monday, it was explained that a neighbor reported to Animal Control on June 28 that the alligators were around children. Animal Control located 4- and 7-foot alligators that were leashed on the 700 block of Mikel Street. They impounded another five alligators after Animal Control obtained a warrant and searched Henderson's van.
The Environmental Health Manager of the Columbia Health Department, Gerald Worley, said the first two alligators were in a fenced backyard of a private residence and it was an issue of public safety.
“They are tamed alligators, perfectly not harmful," he said. "A tamed alligator is just the same as a tamed dog.”
While the county's dangerous exotic animal ordinance says keeping alligators requires a permit, it makes a deviation for zoological parks, circuses and scientific or educational organizations.
Henderson said he does run an education organization and was even praised by the Missouri Senate in a resolution for his zoological educational experience in 2005.
"It is fitting and proper that the Missouri House of Representatives pauses in its diverse legislative endeavors in order to recognize such an extraordinary citizen as Ken Henderson in his role as the 'Pied Piper of the Yukon,'" the document says.
"I think (the charges are) horrible for our organization," Henderson said. "How can we keep our educational programs (exotic animal exhibition) when they got the animals?"
The alligators are still in custody of Animal Control and the possession of the gators could be determined at the next hearing in the Boone County Circuit Court, which is scheduled for July 26.
It costs $25 to impound each of the animals and $15 a day, per animal, after that, Worley said. According to those fees, Henderson could owe $910 in impounding fees by his next court date.
The next court date might decide if Henderson's reptiles are to be permanently removed from his care, or if the animals will be returned to him.
“I don’t know if they will give my alligators back,” said Henderson after the hearing.