WASHINGTON COUNTY (KDKA) — Behind an ordinary house near Burgettstown lives an extraordinary pet.

But owner Randy Thomas says Jackie the alligator has a sweet spot.

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“She likes being scratched, as you see,” the owner says. “More or less smiling, you could say.”

He says he and his wife thought she was a black caiman when they bought her, some 10 years ago.

“She was 16 inches long when I got her. She’s pushing five feet now,” Thomas said.

And every bit an alligator. Although, he says, “My aunt who lives right beside me here says I ought to get a collar, and walk her like a dog.”

She lives in a children’s pool in the summer, which goes into the basement, under heat lamps, in the winter.

Jackie lives in Smith Township. That’s about 1,000 yards from the Burgettstown Borough line. The borough has an ordinance against exotic pets. Smith Township is working on an ordinance, primarily for chickens and feral cats.

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In any case, the owner says she’s grandfathered in. But a neighbor says that’s beside the point.

“Alligators are fast. There’s a creek going near our home. An alligator’s natural instinct is going to go for the creek water. The creek goes all the way from my house down to the children’s park,” Thomas said.

“It’s never gotten loose before,” Thomas added. “But it’s getting bigger, and there’s a chance that it could.”

Randy Thomas recently got a visit from a Humane Society officer.

“He pretty much couldn’t tell me nothing, because I was breaking no ordinances, breaking no laws,” the owner says. “And he told me he’d like to take a look at the alligator. So I brought him back here and looked at it. Everything’s fine. He couldn’t say much.”

He says Jackie could live up to 60 years, and grow up to 15 feet or more. Though he says zoos won’t take her, he hopes to find another home, eventually. In the meantime, he says, “She’s just as docile as your dog or your cat coming to you for affection.”

And he says she never bites the hand that feeds her.

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