A Florida woman is facing charges after she allegedly stole an alligator from her former place of employment and kept it inside a hotel bathtub to use for a birthday photoshoot earlier this month.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said an officer was dispatched to the Grove Resort and Water Park in Winter Garden, Florida, on Sept. 4 after the Orange County Sheriff’s Office requested help with a young alligator approximately two feet long, FOX 35 Orlando reported Thursday.
An incident report obtained by the outlet revealed the alligator was kept inside a hotel bathroom by a woman named Madison Stephan.
Stephan allegedly told officials she “borrowed” the reptile without permission from her former job, Croc Encounters in Tampa, to take pictures with it for her birthday. She allegedly took the alligator by entering the facility before it opened using keys she still had in her possession.
She then made the drive back to the hotel with the gator and put it in water in the bathtub of her hotel room. The two locations are about an hour and 20 minutes apart, according to Google Maps.
It’s unclear who called authorities to report the gator in the hotel room.
The gator was alive but “cold to the touch” when FWC officers arrived at the location, the incident report stated. It was also noted that the reptile had no way to take itself out of the water.
It was returned to Croc Encounters later on that day and is doing well as of late Thursday night.
When contacted by authorities, the owner of Croc Encounters confirmed Stephan is a former employee and said she did not have permission to be on the property or to take the alligator.
“We are very grateful to the responding officers who were able to get this little guy back to his proper home at Croc Encounters so he can continue to greet and educate visitors at our facility,” the zoo said in a statement to Tampa news outlets.
Despite Stephan’s alleged actions, the owner declined to pursue charges of theft or trespassing, FOX 35 reported.
Stephan was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of an alligator.