Judge rules 'Alligator man' can have his gators back

Friday, July 29, 2011 | 9:41 p.m. CDT; updated 2:47 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 30, 2011

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.

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kendra henderson July 29, 2011 | 11:55 p.m.

If you ever met this man personally, you would see that he completely cares and TAMES these gators...the large gators have NEVER bit a single person and Ken has been showcasing them for years (15 years of showcasing exotic animals and a lifetime of taming them).

Snuggles was not a domesticated tame creature when Ken was given her. He tamed Snuggles (the 5 footer). Not only has he tamed gators but rattlesnakes, feral cats, wild possums and wild raccoons for being held and loving people, etc.

The fact that Ken has tamed hundreds of wild animals isn't told in the articles. It also doesn't tell you that the gators sitting in 'tupperware' were not really tupperware like what you would store food in, but large plastic bins full of water with no top...nothing more than a baby pool of water to recreate their natural environment while being transported.

The article also doesn't tell you that Ken's baby gators in smaller plastic bins with water 'that smelled like sewage' and 'covered'...were being changed with fresh water daily and the covers had air holes and the baby ones were for sale no different that if you saw them in a glass tank at the pet store with water in the bottom and air holes on top...

I think a lot of people like to judge what they can't understand because they want to go home at night and live in an empty home with maybe a dog or cat. The only people who can understand how he travels and has to constantly clean and care for the animals are other people who are breeders, live on a farm or choose to bring lots of animals in their living environment because they love them.

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