Charges reversed in 'Alligator man' case

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | 7:18 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Kansas City man known as the "Alligator man" is headed back to court after the Western District Missouri Court of Appeals reversed a decision on Tuesday that was made in 2011.

The decision was reversed based on an error in the trial court, according to the Court of Appeals' decision statement.

The case will be remanded for further proceedings to determine if the animals can be considered dangerous.

Henderson, 66, had several alligators confiscated from his van at the Boone County Fairgrounds in June 2011, but fought in court to get them back in a trial decided July 29, 2011.

The trial court found that the alligators did not qualify as "dangerous exotic animals" and lifted the ban on Henderson's alligators in Columbia in July 2011.

The city appealed the July 2011 decision that let Henderson regain ownership of his alligators, arguing that the alligators can be classified as dangerous reptiles. This would ban them from Columbia, according to section 5-29 of the Columbia Code of Ordinances.

"No person shall keep, harbor, own or knowingly allow to be in or upon the person's premises any dangerous exotic animal including ... any deadly dangerous or venomous reptile," the code of ordinances states.

The court had originally decided that the alligators would not fall under this ordinance because they were not classified as exotic, but if the city can show in court that the animals are dangerous, the ban can be upheld.

Henderson argued that section 5-29 of the ordinance was "unconstitutionally vague and/or overbroad," according to the decision statement. He testified in June 2011 that he used the alligators for educational purposes, that they were domesticated and tamed and that he frequently traveled with them in his van.

Henderson was using the alligators, along with several other animals, for exhibition at the Boone County Fair. A total of seven alligators were taken, including Snuggles and Babe, the two larger alligators currently in question.

 Supervising editor is Shaina Cavazos.

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