An alligator-gone-viral that was abused in an Ohio basement for more than a decade has made its home in Florida.
FOX 13 was there Tuesday afternoon as the gator was brought to the Tampa Bay area by handler John Paner.
It ended up at Croc Encounters in Tampa, where the owners had just returned from nearly a month away. They were rescuing several dozen animals from a rescue partner in Ohio.
One of the gators brought back had reportedly been abused and malnourished, and was living in a small wading pool in the basement of a Dayton, Ohio home.
Video on Facebook showed a man taunting the animal by pouring beer over its snout. Rescue officials said there were teeth marks in the concrete block surrounding the baby pool, where the gator had thrashed its head back and forth to avoid the taunting, and smashed out most of the teeth in its head.
The gator is about seven feet long and investigators say it was severely malnourished. Officials with the Humane Society of Greater Dayton said the owner and the young men in the video may face animal cruelty charges once they wrap up their investigation.
Tim Harrison, who is the director of the Dayton-based Outreach For Animals, which specializes in rescuing wild and exotic animals throughout Ohio, said the reptile's owner had been keeping his back door open and allowing high schoolers to come in and see the alligator, even if he wasn't there.
Harrison, who helped get the malnourished gator out of the home and to a veterinarian, also said the gator's owner was not home when the video was recorded.
Harrison said the alligator is just under seven feet long, but should be more like 10 feet long. He said it showed other signs of malnourishment and lack of Vitamin D from being kept in a basement for 15 years without sunlight.
"When we brought him out in to the sun, he actually just closed his eyes for a long time. It was really sad," he said.
John Paner with Croc Encounters told us once the gator was removed from its wooden travel box and mouth untaped, it got its first taste of real freedom inside its own private pond.
About an hour after its release, the area was hit with an incredible rainstorm. The newest tenant at Croc Encounters could be seen basking in the downpours. No doubt, it will take some time for this wild animal to get used to all of the new sounds and textures its experiencing for the very first time outside.
"It's probably freaking him out just a little bit," said Paner, who added that once the animal gets settled into its new environment, its health should improve rapidly. Sunshine, Vitamin D and the ability to move around and stretch will let it live out the rest of its life in comfort -- and without abuse.
Photos courtesy the Humane Society of Greater Dayton.