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Alligator wrestling act in town this week shows urgent need for ordinance

Can we truly consider alligator wrestling a "traveling educational exhibit?" This week, the act is on display at the Grand Rapids Boat Show

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Alligators are transported in boxes barely the size of their bodies.

Alligators are transported in boxes barely the size of their bodies. /Instagram user @ryanforklift

Imagine you’re on a walk through Grand Rapids. On your walk, you start to hear a commotion in the distance; lots of cheering, and yelling. The closer you get, the louder the cheers and chants, and you quickly realize this is all happening just a block or so south of where you are, so you take a left to see what the hubbub is all about.

About 30 people of all ages are gathered around in a circle. You push your way to the front, and what you see horrifies you – a middle-aged man is taunting a dog with a stick, poking the animal all over its body. The dog is getting more and more distressed, and starts to aggressively attempt to defend itself. Before long, the man wrestles the dog down on the ground, and he puts the dog in a chokehold until the dog passes out. The crowd cheers. This obvious display of mistreatment is so disturbing you call animal control to file a complaint.

Now imagine this same scenario. But instead of a city street, this is taking place inside DeVos Place Convention Hall. And instead of a dog, it’s an alligator in a shallow pool of water. Unfortunately this isn’t just a scenario to imagine, it’s happening in reality again this week as a “feature and attraction” as part of the 2016 Grand Rapids Boat Show.

A self-described “educational traveling exhibit,” I encourage you to watch this short YouTube clip of “Swampmaster” Jeff Quattrocchi’s “education” in action. The video is also embedded above. 

In 2014, we started the End Circus Cruelty in Grand Rapids campaign to get an ordinance passed to ban the use of wild animals in entertainment. Acts, like alligator wrestling, would be banned under the ordinance, as we feel harassing an 8-foot alligator with a stick, and jumping on its back while the animal is clearly in distress, isn’t anywhere close to educational. During his first performance in Grand Rapids this week, Mr. Quatrocchi told the crowd that alligators, if given the choice, would go the other way from humans given their natural fear of humans.

"Generally they're very shy, they'd much rather choose to leave us alone, if we choose to leave them alone," he said during the show.

While Quattrocchi may tell the crowds some interesting alligator facts during the show, it doesn’t teach anyone, of any age, anything about respecting wildlife in their native habitat.

We’re asking Grand Rapids City leaders to pass an ordinance that would prevent these types acts from coming to our community for good. Help us, by signing our petition and join more than 2,400 other residents of West Michigan who, like you, don't believe that acts like these belong in our community.

Quattrocchi was contacted for comment, but declined to comment specifically on his show.

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