COLUMBIA — Ken Henderson got his alligators back, and he promises to move them to Jackson County.
Judge Deborah Daniels of 13th Circuit Court ruled Friday that six alligators are to be returned to their owner, Ken Henderson. Henderson was indicted on seven counts of keeping wild animals without registration on July 11 and on 10 counts of animal neglect and abuse on July 15.
Daniels said she didn't find evidence of animal abuse, but she said Henderson's way of transporting and supervising his animals is unacceptable.
Prosecutor Ryan Haigh said Tuesday that there was evidence that Henderson transports his alligators in plastic containers and water that smelled of sewage.
Employees of Animal Control testified that Henderson didn't supervise his reptiles both at his van at the Boone County Fairgrounds and in the backyard of a Columbia residence.
Animal Control originally collected seven of Henderson's alligators, but it was discovered during a hearing Tuesday that one of the alligators died while under the care of D&D Animal Sanctuary and Rescue on Creasy Springs Road in Columbia. The animals were moved there after being confiscated.
As a result of the ruling, Animal Control is now in charge of transporting the alligators to Jackson County, in the westernmost part of Missouri, where Henderson said his institution, the Global Environmental Education Foundation, will set up more a permanent home for them.
Until Thursday morning, Henderson was president of that foundation. He resigned, he said, after other board members of the program asked him to.
The foundation, according to Henderson, consists of three board members and several non-board members, and Chris Sperry, former vice president, will replace Henderson.
Sperry presented himself as a witness during the hearing Tuesday. He testified that he traveled with Henderson on many occasions and never saw any abuse. Sperry wasn't at the ruling Friday, but the new vice president, Michael Gippner, presented himself on behalf of the institution Friday.
Despite his resignation as president, Henderson he said he will still continue traveling with his exotic animal exhibition.
As for the remaining $1,122.75 of the $2,592.75 of Henderson's bond payment, Daniels said it will be used for the costs of transportation and the rest of the impoundment fees. Additional charges, if any are necessary, could be added at a later date.
Henderson has exhibited his exotic animals at the Boone County Fairgrounds in the past, but he's not sure if he'll return.
"I was born in Missouri; I have two children who live in Missouri, but I haven't made my decision (to come back to the fair) yet," he said.