Ulester Wilkin Jr. discovered his pet alligator wasn't in his cage in the basement when a police officer came calling Tuesday morning.
Wilkin had paid his nephew to clean the cage but discovered the job hadn't been done and the gator was roaming loose after Officer Robert Gardin, the police department's animal control officer, showed up at Wilkin's rental house in the 1300 block of West Monroe St.
"I said, 'It's down here somewhere,' " Wilkin said.
Police heard about the American alligator, named Gator, after Wilkin's landlord, Robert F. Speer of Bellevue, complained to police last week.
Speer said he had asked Wilkin to get rid of the animal and was worried Gator might bite someone.
Gardin told Wilkin he must obtain a permit to keep a dangerous animal or find Gator a new home, Sandusky police Lt. Mike Campbell said.
Police did not cite Wilkin, a self-employed disc jockey and caterer, and are giving him a few days to comply with city ordinance, Campbell said.
"It's kind of like an alligator you'd see in Florida," Campbell said.
Wilkin said he plans to obtain a permit for Gator.
He said he also would consider selling it if he could find a good home for it.
Gator lives in a cage in a bathtub in the basement. He's about 4 1/2 years old, Wilkin said, and likes to eat large goldfish.
Wilkin, who said he once owned a boa constrictor, obtained Gator about three years ago from a previous owner who was talking about turning Gator loose.
In other northern Ohio alligator news, African Safari Wildlife Park in Ottawa County is taking care of a 4-foot alligator captured Sunday just south of Genoa.
Sandusky County's sheriff asked the wildlife attraction to take care of the alligator while it tries to locate the owner.
"He's doing pretty good," said Bradd Biecheler, wildlife supervisor at African Safari. "We've got him in a cage. He's eating and sleeping well."
Treating an alligator as a household pet is not a good idea, Biecheler said.
"They require special handling and care," he said. "If you keep them in small enclosures, you stunt their growth."
No one has called so far to claim ownership of the alligator, said Capt. Carmella Riffle of the Sandusky County Sheriff's office.