As Buddy Ackerman was out for predawn walk in Palm Harbor, Fla., earlier this week with Oso, his daughter’s Golden Retriever, an 8-foot-long alligator slithered out from a retention pond and snatched Oso.
Ackerman was using a retractable leash to walk Oso, so he didn’t see the alligator attack as the dog was taking a potty break near the pond — but he heard Oso whimpering.
“He was squealing a good bit when the thing grabbed him,” Ackerman, a 75-year-old grandfather, told ABC Action News. “Me, I’m a nervous wreck, I go up and slip and fall on my rear end, and the two of us are tugging. Alligator is going one way, I’m going the other.”
Although it may not seem like the safest thing to do, Ackerman did just what many pet parents, or parents of pet parents, might do in such a horrible situation. He immediately began kicking the alligator’s snout. It worked: The gator “opened its mouth real wide and backed up a little,” Ackerman told ABC Action News. It dropped Oso and crawled back into the pond.
Speaking of not being the safest thing to do, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) warns residents not to allow their pets to swim, exercise or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators.
It’s also important to note that some veterinarians and animal welfare experts are opposed to retractable leashes because they can be dangerous. “There are many reasons to avoid or reconsider the use of a retractable leash,” writes Dr. Marty Becker, “starting with the fact that on this type of leash, your dog can get far enough away from you to either get into trouble or into harm’s way” — as Oso and Ackerman so scarily discovered. These leashes can also cause injuries to dogs and people, “from superficial burns and cuts to horrific amputations,” Becker writes.
The good news is that neither Oso or Ackerman suffered any serious injuries during the attack. As for the gator, Ackerman called the FWC’s Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) hotline and reported it. An alligator that looked like Oso’s attacker was trapped by wildlife officials later that day.
Ackerman’s daughter, Jody, says her dad is a hero. “Osi and I are so very grateful that nobody was hurt,” she told ABC Action News.
“I’m chalking it up to good luck,” Ackerman told the Tampa Bay Times. “I was worried more about my daughter and how she would feel.”