An Estero, Fla. man was filmed wrestling his puppy from the jaws of a small alligator.
Richard Wilbanks, a 74-year-old local, was outside of his home when the gator emerged from his backyard pond. The animal grabbed Wilbanks’ pet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who was only a 3-month-old puppy.
“It came out of the water like a missile. I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick,” Wilbanks told CNN. “I just automatically jumped into the water.”
Footage captured by the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fStop Foundation showed Wilbanks grab the dog from the gator’s mouth without dropping his cigar. The incident left the senior’s hands chewed up and he required a tetanus shot.
The two organizations recorded the video for its Sharing the Landscape project to raise awareness about coexisting with wildlife.
“It is critical that people who live at the interface of wildland take extra precautions,” the spokesperson for the Florida Wildlife Federation told the Associated Press. “Dogs should be leashed and both people and pets should avoid lingering at the edge of large retention ponds where alligators are known to occupy.”
According to CNN, Wilbanks agreed with the organizations and hopes the alligator or pond isn’t removed. The 74-year-old also committed to always walking his puppy with a leash and saying 10 feet away from the pond’s edge.
“Our pets, they’re just like family to us,” Wilbanks told CNN.
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