Dying Caiman and a Lot of Pot Found in California Home

Police on a routine probation check in the Castro Valley, California home of Assif Mayer found something quite unexpected: a 5-foot caiman — an alligator-like animal — in a plexiglass tank.

Also found was 34 pounds of marijuana which, according to Sgt. J.D. Nelson, the caiman was reportedly “guarding.”  Mayer told police that the caiman’s name was “Mr. Teeth” and that he had bought him to commemorate rapper Tupac Shakur’s 1996 death.

Very sadly, Mr. Teeth died the day after he was seized by Alameda County animal control officers. They had taken him to the Oakland Zoo, which said that the caiman was “very sick” when he arrived. As a zoo spokesman said, he had arrived “with a poor prognosis and was unresponsive when he arrived here.”

As Nelson commented, “We get guard dogs all the time when we search for grow houses and people stashing away all types of dope. But alligators? You just don’t see that every day” — a good thing, considering that the caiman must have been living in extreme discomfort and was not properly cared for.

Caimans are close relatives of alligators and are native to Central and South America. Most grow to be only a few feet; one species, Cuvier’s dwarf caiman, grows to be only about 3 feet long while others including the black caiman can grow to be 13 feet or more. Certainly, a plexigrass tank in suburban California is not a place for one to live.

Sadly, reports of alligators in suburban and urban areas in the U.S. are not as unusual as might be thought. Last year, there were at least five reports of alligators and crocodiles found in New Jersey; one was found in a north Jersey park. On Long Island, at least five alligators were found abandoned in under two weeks.

The discovery of Mr. Teeth has gotten a good share of media attention due, very likely, to the additional finding of all that marijuana. But the bigger crime here is Mayer keeping a non-native, exotic animal who was close to death: How was he able to procure the caiman? How long had Mayer kept him?

Mayer is being charged on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale. In addition, he also faces violations from the California Fish and Game Commission, for (among other charges) possession of an exotic animal without a permit.  California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act requires that livestock not be confined in a way that does not allow them to turn around, stand up, freely use their limbs and more. Shouldn’t such policies mandating humane and ethical treatment also be considered for animals in residences?


Related Care2 Coverage

Crocodiles and Alligators Are So Very Touchy-Feely

Wolf Dog Found in Brooklyn; Alligators in New Jersey

Animal Welfare Reform: Total Denial, One Step at a Time


Photo from Thinkstock


Carrie Anne Brown

sad news but thanks for sharing

Waheeda S.
Waheeda S.3 years ago

RIP to that poor creature. :(

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B.3 years ago

Poor beastie.


Hope he dies the same way, I wish I had a supreme power to kill all the humans who kill or torture etc. animals.....

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B.3 years ago

Well said Anne M. How on earth can he get away with this?

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L.3 years ago


Julie O'Kane
Julie O'Kane3 years ago

It's beyond belief! heartless excuse for a human being. What must he have been feeding the poor creature if anything at all considering how sick he was to die the very next day, I imagine a few neighbourhood pets may have gone missing during the caiman's short life. R.I.P, and may the drug baron rot in a cell.

Lisa S.
Lisa S.3 years ago

Karen, I have to say that alligators are beautiful, you just haven't really observed them!
What a shame that this poor gator didn't make it to at least have a life worth living!
This is also a testimony of how much influence celebrities have on it's audience. Just as Michael Vick abused his dogs, many rappers and other high profile people use animals in their videos, etc. I believe this MUST be banned and illegal! Leave the animals alone- commercials, music videos, circuses, movies, etc. are NO place for animals!!!
I also feel the same as Tolga!!!!!!!!!

Sandi C.
Sandi C.3 years ago


Gloria H.
Gloria H.3 years ago

Mayer needs to be incarcerated in a cell the size of the old phone booths ...just like Mr. Teeth, and put on display for a long, long time. I take it caimans don't eat bugs, but it would be a suitable diet for Mayer...all he can catch!