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Town condemns treatment of gator caught on mini-golf course

May 29, 2020 GMT

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A worker for an animal control company allowed bystanders to ride and pose for pictures and videos with an alligator that was captured on a South Carolina miniature golf course, drawing condemnation from town leaders.

Hilton Head Island Town Manager Steve Riley issued a statement Thursday saying officials were “deeply concerned about the egregious and unacceptable behavior,” after the alligator was trapped Tuesday, news outlets reported. Several photos and videos were shared on social media.

Joey Maffo, 19, led the capture of the gator at Legendary Golf in front of a crowd of about 100 people, The Island Packet of Hilton Head reported. He was among a team that responded when the golf course contacted Critter Management, an animal control company founded by his grandfather, Joe Maffo.

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“As soon as I taped the gator, I thought it was a good opportunity to get people to understand how big and powerful it was,” Joey Maffo told the newspaper.

About 20 to 30 people, mostly tourists, took turns sitting on the alligator, snapping photos and recording videos, Maffo said.

The alligator was ultimately removed and euthanized, which the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in a statement said was legal.

“The capture and handling of alligators should be left to experienced professionals, and allowing untrained people to interact with an alligator is irresponsible and puts those people at risk,” alligator biologist Morgan Hart said in the statement.

Both Joey and Joe Maffo apologized for the incident.

“It certainly wasn’t our intent to exploit this alligator,” Joe Maffo said.